Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Better Early Than Never, I Guess

I have voted absentee once in my entire life.  It was the February non-partisan primary in 2005.  My wife and I were going to be in Hawaii for our honeymoon on Election Day, so I went down to City Hall and cast an in-person absentee ballot right before we left.  Every other election since I've turned 18, I have voted at the polls on the designated Election Day.  Sometimes I've had to wait in long lines--sometimes I was able to just pick up a ballot and vote in just a few minutes.  But save for that one instance--always on Election Day--an not by absentee.

Notice that I said "absentee" voting--not "early" voting.  It gets my goat when other media refers to absentee voting as "early" voting.  You aren't given an "early" ballot--you are given an "absentee" ballot.  But somewhere in recent years, somebody in one of the political parties realized that if you call it "early" voting instead of absentee voting--people will be more likely to do it.  You hear "absentee ballot" and you likely think "Oh, I'll be in town on Election Day, so I'll just vote then."  But you hear "early voting" and you think "Hey, I can get my vote in before everyone else's and my guy will be ahead!"  As if ballots cast before Election Day carry some kind of added value.  (Or perhaps, you think you might be able to sneak in a second ballot on Election Day--even though Democrats swear that never, ever, never, ever, never, ever happens)  Ironically, absentee ballots are actually the last ones counted--as they are usually fed into the machines when poll workers finally have enough time on Election Day.

And I certainly don't understand why people would camp out to cast an absentee ballot on the first day.  Yes, there were people who put up the tents and slept out on the sidewalk in front of city halls across Wisconsin on Monday.  Perhaps they thought the Clerk was going to run out of ballots if they weren't there at 8:00 AM on Day One.  The only thing worth doing that for is front row tickets to a U2 concert--not to vote for Barrack Obama or Mitt Romney.  Plus, I'd be willing to bet that those "early" voters send in their mortgage and utility payments on the last day possible (or in the case of Democrats, 29-days after it was due--right before they get hit with the late fee.)

What I find most ironic, is that those who "vote early" are most likely to vote on Election Day anyway.  The big push to get absentee ballots in the box as soon as possible has not led to any increase in voter participation.  It has merely spread out the action over a longer period of time--a maneuver that ends up costing taxpayers more, because clerks have to staff their counters (and in the case of the City of Oshkosh, the Convention Center) at higher levels for three weeks--in addition to the full stafffing of polling places on Election Day.

Despite my distaste for the "early voting" crowd, I do have more respect for them than the 50% who don't bother to vote at any time.

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