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Opening Arguments

Heavy early

Holy cow. This election may be almost over already. I've been hearing about heavy early voting for days now, and today I experienced it. Middle of the week, 11 a.m., and the Election Board office at 1 W. Superior was jampacked. There must have been 50 people in line ahead of me, and they kept streaming in. There were probably 75 there when I left and still more arriving. If the analyses I've read are correct, that the early voters are mostly the strong partisans, I guess the races will truly be decided by those lame-o undecideds who make up their minds the second before they go into the voting booth. Reminds me of that old joke about criminal justice: How would you like your fate determined by the only 12 people in town not smart enough to get out of jury duty? Well, how do you like the fate of the country being decided by the handful of dolts who still don't know what the issues are and where everybody stands on them?

Is early voting a threat to democracy, by the way? Here's a unique opinion on that from Jonah Goldberg that I ran on the editorial page the other day. At least it's one I've not seem expressed anywhere else:

Everyone laments the decline in civic commitment in America. “Government is the word we use for the things we all do together,” is a common refrain from liberal reformers in particular. Well, Election Day used to be one of the few things we did do together as a nation. It was a hugely important civic ritual. But the cult of convenience and a knee-jerk faith that voting at home will mean higher voter “turnout” (a somewhat misleading term under the circumstances) led us to downgrade Election Day and replace it with “Last Chance to Vote Day.”

[. . .]

There are lots of reasons to have a single, solitary Election Day, if not on a Tuesday then perhaps a 24-hour period over a weekend. Among the best reasons: Deadlines focus the minds of voters and campaigns alike, and in-person, single-day voting cuts down on the potential for voter fraud.

But it seems to me the most important reason is that democracy’s legitimacy rests in no small part on the idea that the people are making a collective decision once all the campaigning is done. Having all of the voters working with the same information and letting the candidates make their case to the whole country in the same time frame seems essential to that idea.

Dunno. Seems like a stretch to me. A "decline in civic commitment" is an abstract but the added convenience of having many more chances to vote is a concrete benefit.

Kudos to the Election Board, incidentally. The place was well-staffed, and they moved the crowds in and out of there with efficiency and courtesy.