Partisan Anxiety Pushes Howie to Oppose Early Voting

Early voting is chugging along. Clinton has led Trump in national polling averages since the first ballots were cast in South Dakota on September 23, and Reuters/Ipsos finds Clinton leading among early voters by 15 percentage points.

Like Trump, Gordon Howie believes that if everyone would just wait to vote until we scream a bit more about Clinton’s e-mails, Trump would win. And like Trump, since the election appears not to be favoring Trump, Howie claims the election system is rigged to favor his opponents. Howie thus wants to ban early voting:

This late breaking surprise and new information creates even more serious doubt on the credibility of the Clinton campaign.  Even an active criminal investigation may not deter hard core Clinton supporters, but there is little doubt that it could swing large numbers of votes away from her.  That could change the outcome of this Presidential race and the fundamental direction of the country.  The Clinton campaign has routinely stalled, covered up and destroyed information to keep voters in the dark.  The bottom just fell out of that bucket.

This turn of events makes the case against early voting.  It is better for some candidates and campaigns when voters do not know everything when they vote [Gordon Howie, “Early Voting Should Be Eliminated,” The Right Side, 2016.10.29].

Wow—what ever happened to conservatives trusting citizens to make up their own minds? Citizens who choose to vote early understand that they are giving up access to late-breaking information (and exaggeration). Why not let citizens make that choice, especially when early voting allows more people to participate in the process?

Interestingly and counterintuitively, early voting does not appear to reliably increase voter turnout. So even if Howie could return to the Legislature and outlaw early voting, he might not be disenfranchising many if any South Dakotans. However, can Howie point to a compelling state interest, independent of the current “news” cycle that he thinks favors his current political interests? Voters don’t have to vote early; they can choose what works for them. If they want to stand in line for an extra hour on Election Day, they can do so. If they want to study the candidates and the issues early and cast their vote early, they can do so.

And really, how much information do voters need? Don’t we cut them off from information by setting an Election Day deadline? Given that we don’t know what FBI Director Comey has found or whether he has found anything new, shouldn’t we postpone the election until he can complete his inquiry? And even if he finds nothing new, doesn’t this new outburst just reinforce our suspicions and justify waiting another week, or month, or year so that Fox and Friends can find another “smoking gun,” and another, and another?

Clinton haters made their decision 25 years ago to never vote for the Clintons, no matter what information came out. They are allowed their decades of ignorance, decades of false charges and Goebbelsian repetition. Why would Howie not allow voters to choose a couple-three weeks of “ignorance” for the convenience of casting their vote when they see fit?

We should accept no argument about election reform based on partisan anxiety (my guy’s not winning? the system must be rigged!). We should look at early voting and other election reforms strictly in terms of voter opportunity. Does an election rule give more citizens more opportunity to vote? Does an election rule respect the wisdom, autonomy, and authority of voters? If so, do it. If not, don’t do it.

Early voting gives citizens choices and trusts they’ll use those choices wisely. By advocating a ban on early voting, Howie shows he doesn’t trust the voters.


10 Responses to Partisan Anxiety Pushes Howie to Oppose Early Voting

  1. Everyone should vote on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and election day, Tuesday. The workers should be given a paid holiday to go vote. Voting should be a national paid holiday meant to encourage voters of all parties to appreciate the value of the vote. Hired non partisan election officials should go to registered shut ins, nursing homes, assisted living. churches. hospitals and other like places where voters may be housed to pick up their votes on that weekend. Here here to Mr. Howie and his enthusiastic approach to voting that encourages votes. Let’s do this!

  2. owen reitzel

    apparently “choice” is a bad word in the Republican vocabulary

  3. Ben Cerwinske

    Not a bad idea Jerry.

  4. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    Early voting was meant to be just a convince for the voter, but overtime it has also become a manipulative tool for the national campaigns to use to work over those states that have it in order to control and effect the outcome of those states for the election. Thus, allowing them to commit their final resources to those states which matter to them and do not have early voting.

    Early voting also creates a multi-tier response by voters to given issues which arise in a campaign. Where voting becomes less of a closing on a deal and more like a timing as to when you will buy into a stock or into a candidate in this case.

    Many of the changes to our electoral process in recent years were originally meant to facilitate the voter, but instead have led to helping the press, the vote counters, and the politicians, too, or instead, that is….

    I would like to get rid of early voting and return to an absentee ballot system once again, but with more liberal leniency towards its application, and also go to a national holiday for all on election day in order to give everyone a greater opportunity to vote…

  5. John, does early voting really help politicians? I find it complicates my campaigning. I can’t save all my good stuff for the last week (the way Al apparently has), since I get less bang for the buck. It messes up my door-knocking: instead of just plowing right down the street, I have to fuss with the map and the list of folks who have already voted (14% in District 3).

    I’ll admit, in my other favorite voting realm, judging high school debate, I don’t get to check out of the round early, circle the winner after the 1NC, and ignore the rest of the speeches. I flow every speech and do not circle the winner and hand in my ballot until the kids have said their last words.

    But note that even Jerry, who seems to want to truncate early voting, still wants to allow a multi-day voting period, during which time some voters will inevitably have more information than others. Heck, even if we limit voting to one day, the guy who comes back from a one-month artist-in-residence program completely off the grid in Dry Tortugas National Park on to vote on Election Day still won’t have as much information as the plugged-in folks in line with him at the polls. Folks who go vote at 7 a.m. on Election Day might miss some wild November surprise that breaks on CNN at noon. We can’t guarantee equal information.

    We also can’t practically or fairly guarantee access to the polls exclusively for travelers, soldiers, sick people, astronauts, or other people who have really good reasons that they can’t show up on Election Day. Do we really want the county auditor collecting doctor’s notes and copies of plane tickets to decide who deserves an early ballot and who doesn’t?

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    Cory, it definitely helps national campaigns to manipulate the electoral college. Locally maybe not so much as you illustrate, but if you have the resources in a local race, like an open checkbook, then you empower some candidates, most likely the affluent and or connected, to run a successful and manipulative campaign with the help of early voting….

    I like your debate analogy, however. Although, having read many times the facial impressions of many judges back in the day, as an once varsity debater for Washington High, I honestly think many judges’ decisions are made after 1NC…jk….;-)

    I would agree that Jerry’s plan has a lot of merit and I wouldn’t not mind a hybrid of my idea with his, but when it comes to the guy out at Dry Tortugas National Park, well, he made that choice to travel and no one else did it for him….

    As far as burdening the county auditors, well, the auditors can just put that burden on the voter themselves with an oath that their reason is valid like we use to do….

    Let us face it, early voting has been going on in South Dakota since when? September 24th, right? But Senator Thune didn’t begin his flip-flop on Trump until October 7th. I bet their are a lot of late September/early October Thune voters who wished they had never voted for Thune and might have voted for Mr. Williams or least helped Mr. Williams by staying on the side lines in that race due to Thune’s 1.5 Kerry (“I was against the war before I was for it”….. Better yet, I am for him, I am against him, and now I am for him once again….(?))

  7. You and I cannot be sure that Mr. Howie won’t return to the legislatures, perhaps as your seatmate, and make as the centerpiece plank of his platform the taking away of early voting. He is insaner than most, almost all of the time.

  8. Donald Pay

    Although early voting has lots of support in progressive circles, studies indicate it may actually depress voter turnout. Apparently, voters who are eager to vote early are the ones who will always vote on election day anyway. So, no improvement there. And the sometimes voters no longer have that peer pressure or big push by parties to spur them to the polls. The result is an overall negative effect on voters going to the polls.

    However, in Wisconsin that negative effect of early voting is made up for by same day registration, which we’ve had here since I was a student in the 1970s. Same day registration encourages folks to vote since they only have to make one decision to arrange their schedule. That’s huge for people working two or three jobs, single parents and students, who are always time crunched since election day is right around mid-term time.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/23/study-early-voting-associated-with-lower-turnout/

    Early voting has been going on in Wisconsin for a while. In Dane County, all the libraries have had polling stations set up for two weeks now, and I expect they will continue through election day.

    And, really, early voting is not good for any but top of the ticket races. You never hear of legislative candidates wanting early voting. Early voting increases under votes in down-ticket and ballot measures. Press coverage, advertising, door-to-door visits and lit drops for down-ticket races and ballot measures are most likely to occur in the last two weeks before the election. Many folks need that last two weeks to educate themselves on those races and measures.

  9. I have no doubt some judges, like some voters, make up their minds early and thus view all subsequent information in the round through the lens of their chosen outcome. Making them wait until the end of the round/Election Day won’t change their minds.

    John KC, on making a choice to be gone… dare we apply that same thought to soldiers? You chose to serve, so you knew you might be gone during the election, so you’ll just have to deal with a very narrow window of time in which to vote or maybe even miss the election?

    Oaths? Ah, but then do we expect the auditor to go play oath police and investigate every absentee voter? Is making sure no one votes early who really could show up on Election Day worth all that effort?

    JKC, every early voter knows new info and new events could arise that could change their minds. Early voters deliberately gamble that they won’t miss much. Is their choice to vote early and forego October information any worse than the choice made by a majority of voters to throw in with their party’s candidate at convention (or earlier) and ignore all arguments from the other side?

    Curious: in the polls right now, how many of Clinton’s 46% and Trump’s 42% have been with their candidate all along and never switched?

    How about I offer this compromise: I’ll consider shortening the period for early voting if we can also shorten the length of the Presidential campaign? National Presidential primary day after Labor Day (or condensed period of regional primaries in August), national party conventions September 15, indy filing deadline October 1, ballots issued sometime thereafter?

  10. Donald, thanks for that explanation of causation. Interesting that the peer pressure depends on big-day publicity and excitement. I suppose there’s no way to recreate that peer pressure over an extended voting period?

    I’ll totally include same-day registration in the grand compromise package. Do away with the two-week-prior registration deadline.

    Under-votes among early voters because they haven’t gotten educated? Hmm… good thing I started handing out cards with my name on the front and ballot measures on the back in the spring. Perhaps I need to scrutinize the District 3 vote counts for signs that my ballot measure cards may have promoted more voting on the ballot measures!