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“vote early, vote often”

The Hidden Costs of Voting Early

By —— Bio and Archives--October 25, 2008

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Voting early in the presidential election? Seems like a great idea to many Americans.

For folks who have done their homework and believe themselves absolutely certain that their mind is made up about who they want to win an election, there is probably nothing to lose. For the person who reads all the information available regarding each of the candidates, even an October surprise will likely not come as a surprise. Rather, it will probably validate his or her existing beliefs about who should be our next president.

“More than 100,000 people cast their ballots in the first week of early voting in Chicago and suburban Cook County that began Oct. 13.” [1]

It is guaranteed there will be countless more numbers of folks heading to the polls when it’s most convenient for them.

This is because there are “31 states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow voters to cast ballots in person ahead of time without providing election officials with a reason they can’t be there on Election Day.” [2]

This “means that as both presidential campaigns shift from registering voters to getting out the vote, the election has actually already started. As much as 30 percent of the votes cast this fall will probably come in before Nov. 4, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State.”

Why shouldn’t a person take advantage of the opportunity to cast his or her ballot a few weeks before the election instead of on Election Day? What could the early exercise of one’s civic responsibility possibly hurt?

“It takes more money and more organization to deal with a longer voting period.” [3] Clearly, the Obama campaign has much more money to spend on their candidate’s election than the McCain camp. So this works to their advantage.

Early voters, “may miss out on the candidates’ performance in debates or be unable to factor in other late-developing election events.”

“Voters who send in ballots by mail give up the privacy of the voting booth. Elderly or otherwise vulnerable voters can be subject to pressure or coercion from family members or political operatives.”

“Absentee ballots have long been the biggest source of attempts to manipulate elections.” The expression, “vote early, vote often” is not without more than a grain of truth.

For the demographic that receives news in 30 second sound bites, gleans information from partisan media sources, or is undecided, the next two weeks may prove crucial to feeling confident about whether to vote for a particular candidate. For these demographics alone, critical information that has been kept out of the mainstream media or has been painted as irrelevant to the candidacies must be allowed to surface and influence their decision making process. Those invested in setting the record straight and exposing political spin need these next two weeks to persuade would be voters as to why they should listen to contrary opinions about what is at stake in the election. An October surprise could definitely seal the deal for an undecided voter.

Guaranteed, unless a person is a political animal, he or she won’t have been following the race in the same way sports aficionados follow the stats of the teams in a given sport. Rather, people will be tuning into the election these next two weeks the same way large numbers of folks tune into the World Series or the Super Bowl. Because they haven’t been following the teams in any great detail, they’ll be learning about the players and their records during the finale.

“James Carville, political consultant and aphorist, says: Nothing validates a candidate to voters as much as other voters.” [4]

If people go to the polls during a swing in public opinion for one of the candidates, they may vote emotionally instead of rationally. These days, much of the information released about the candidates must be dissected and discussed before it can be considered reliable. It’s hard to distinguish what is fact from fiction because the news is slanted by the opinion of the reporters. Unless a voter is a hard core news junkie, it’s hard to know who to trust. Complicating matters, the education system in this country is not providing voters a well rounded education that teaches them to think for themselves. Much of what students learn these days is colored by a politically correct agenda or by the instructors charged with them. For some people, it will take longer to separate the wheat from the chaff to come to a decision.

Deciding how to cast a vote in an election is much like going to the grocery store. The buyer must understand that political operatives are working behind the scenes to display their candidate in the most flattering manner. This is no different than producers paying extra money to have their products prominently displayed at eye level and the end caps to capture a shopper’s interest. This doesn’t mean their products offer the most value or even provide what the buyer needs. A person can experience huge buyer’s remorse when the “product” that is bought turns out to be less than what it appeared. To prevent this from happening, a good shopper looks at all the products and weighs cost against value.

While it’s not for everyone, this is one voter who plans to exercise civic responsibility when it’s most convenient. But I’ve looked at the blue books and read the Consumer Reports. I understand what I’m buying.

(1) Early Voting Getting Robust Turnout in Crucial States, Begins Today in Texas and Florida
(2) Banking on early votes for Barack
(3) Early vote growing in size and importance
(4) Unorthodox Campaign Strategies

Nancy Salvato -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Nancy Salvato is the President of Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country.

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