Early voting is a dumb idea

In America’s never-ending search for convenience over substance, voters in most states can now avoid lines on Election Day and cast their votes days, if not weeks, before a campaign has concluded.  And while the two major parties are adjusting their electoral tactics to take into account early voting, as a nation we should really ask ourselves if this is a good idea.

Early voting has fundamentally changed how elections are conducted and campaigns are run, not just in my home state of Georgia, but across the country. At least a third of voters, up from 25 percent in 2008, are expected to take advantage of laws in 31 states that allow them to cast their ballot as far out as a month before a general election.

Of course, the emphasis on early voting brings a greater need for funding to run ads, organize grassroots activists and “get out the vote” efforts, which are now as important in late September and early October as they are in the final week of a campaign. We are seeing before our eyes that an election can now be won or lost before the traditional time that the closing ads of a campaign have aired or the last direct mail pieces have dropped in voters’ mailboxes.

Perhaps no better example of this new dynamic was the 2008 presidential election where Democrats and Barack Obama’s campaign were able to take advantage of early voting opportunities. Polls show that Obama carried as much as an 18 point margin over John McCain among these voters.

To their credit, Republicans have taken advantage of the anger that we have seen from voters, and the GOP is poised to gain at least the 40 seats necessary to take control of the House of Representatives. Indeed, many races in states with early voting may already be over, as voters associated with the tea party movement, an enthusiastic conservative base and discontent independents have led the charge against many vulnerable incumbents.

Just like military leaders have had to adjust strategy and tactics to modern, urban warfare, political consultants, campaign managers and candidates are learning to adapt to the modern techniques of this new age in which media and the actual process of voting is managed by electronic processes much more so than in past generations.

Still, there is something unsettling about people casting their votes a month or two weeks before a campaign is concluded; and perhaps before the candidate for whom they cast their vote made a serious blunder or staked out a position with which the early voter disagrees.  People are opting for the greater convenience of voting early rather than taking the time to wait until a campaign is actually concluded, and they are in the best position to case an informed vote; one that can come only by waiting to vote until the actual end of the campaign.  If you ask me, early voting is a dumb idea.

69 comments Add your comment

mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack the LIAR Obama, BEND OVER, here comes the CHANGE!

October 18th, 2010
9:29 pm

Swede Atlanta – I think you should go back to Europe and their FAILING government handouts and FAILING policies. Delta is ready when you are!


October 19th, 2010
7:19 am

Those of us who work and pay taxes ARE the informed electorate, and we aren’t waiting to see who makes the last blunder before we decide. Plus, many college students have to return home to vote and that is not always possible on a Tuesday. And yes, only people who pay taxes should even get a vote.


October 19th, 2010
7:49 am

Bob, Nobody asked you. You only THINK that early voters are not informed, but you presented no poll or study or data to support your idea. A voter is informed by a lot more than the end of campaign nasty ads. We early voters have already considered the candidates’ political experience and record, watched debates, read platforms, listened to speeches, read editorials, and talked it over with family and friends. You are the one who is not informed.


October 19th, 2010
7:53 am

Plus when we vote early we don’t have to stand in line behind all the convicts and homeless people the democrats truck in to vote for their candidate.


October 19th, 2010
7:58 am

I thank god everyday that we are free to comment without consequence. The national discussion may progress from anal to banal, but at least we are free.

Support the troops or the terrorists win.


October 19th, 2010
7:59 am

The Republicans want folks to vote early because that way they don’t hear all the stuff that Nathan has been involved in! I think Republicans are more likely to vote early and absentee. And the absentee people who apply via mail don’t have to show any ID–voter fraud!


October 19th, 2010
8:00 am

How about we eliminate the campaign (the fund-raising, the TV commercials, the political parties) all together. Candidates could set up web sites and fill out questionnaires with answers to be published in the newspapers of public record on the first Sundays of the month (or the first weekly edition for weekly papers) for two months before an election and on the final day of the election. Everyone registered to vote would receive a postage paid mail-in ballot that they could fill out and return to the government within two month of “election day”. Voters could then evaluate candidates on their platforms and record instead of on who raises the most money and who belongs to which party. Campaigns are the root cause of corporate and special interest corruption of our political process.

all i'm saying is...

October 19th, 2010
9:11 am

Is late voting possible? If so, I know a bunch of people who, if given the chance, would like to change their vote from Deal to Handel.


October 19th, 2010
9:17 am

keep hearing about all these angry voters but none claim to be angry at GA republicans


October 19th, 2010
3:41 pm

Poll worker to voter: “Who is the Vice President and the Speaker of the House?”

Voter: “I don’t know.”

Poll worker: “You can leave now.”


October 20th, 2010
10:07 am

Bob Barr’s Opinion column, Oct 18, begins by attributing early voting to a “search for convenience over substance”, and notes that a third of voters will vote early this year. He states that early voters in 2008 favored Obama by an 18-point margin, as if that set the precedent for convenient early voting, and suggests that early voters are not taking the necessary time to wait for a last minute gaffe or a too late to refute negative ad before deciding on the best candidate. Barr then gets pretty silly, comparing politicians in “this new age” to changes in military tactics, and says voting is now “managed by electronic processes much more so than in past generations”. This ain’t Mayberry, and technology is changing everything exponentially with each passing year – in THIS generation.

My wife and I vote early by driving 15 miles to Lawrenceville, while our polling station is 2 miles from home. While inconvenient, we’re doing our part to lessen the load on polling place volunteers. We’re well informed on the issues and candidates, and don’t wait until the last minute to make responsible choices.

If you ask me, Barr’s opinion of early voters is dumb.

[...] Early voting is a dumb idea | The Barr Code. [...]

Dick Korteling

October 20th, 2010
4:07 pm

Mr. Barr

I see no problem with the concept of a voting period rather than a voting day. If the problem is that people can vote today before the campaigns have ended, perhaps we should stop the campaigns when voting begins. That’s what we did before the concept of early voting took hold. If we want to allow campaigning up to the conventional election day, perhaps we should allow late voting, rather than early voting. In either case, as long as campaigning stops when the voting starts and the votes aren’t counted until voting has stopped, I think an exended voting interval encourages more people to vote. What’s wrong with that?


October 21st, 2010
11:06 am

I like the idea of voting all weekend- or better yet, how about a week of voting, and right before the week of voting starts, all candidates must have their ads stop?? That way, people have no excuse about not being able to get away from work or life to vote, they can choose a weekday or weekend. -I’m talking about a week of voting from a Monday through a Sunday…



October 21st, 2010
5:07 pm


Mr. Barr’s point has been proven, without a doubt, by Winston Salem State University, a, ahem, predominately black college. It has been been busted for an e-mail sent to the entire student body telling them to VOTE EARLY. HELP THE DEMOCRATS.

Look it up weenies.


October 22nd, 2010
6:33 pm

i voted early. i knew who i was going to vote for. i vote for ideals and character, not slander and short-sighted, periodic adjustments. i am 28 years old, white, masters degree, unemployed. i voted democrat. i believe in being strong to be useful. i do not believe in finance, insurance and oil. i believe in action and vision. i believe in people, not in money. not everything is a commodity.


October 22nd, 2010
8:40 pm

I really like the convenience of early voting. But exit polls before the actual election day should be illegal. If people see trending for a certain candidate before the official voting day, that can skew their voting patterns.


October 23rd, 2010
1:02 am

October 18th, 2010
7:15 am
“Vote NO (early and often) for Voting Now. (and remember, the asses are supposed to be IN the seats.)

I don’t know what that means. Now I’m frightened.”————————————-

I’m afraid I might know. Now I’M frightened.


October 23rd, 2010
1:44 pm

No problem. Voters don’t make informed decisions, they vote based on Party lines, so the sooner the whole annoyance is over with the better. More early voters mean shorter lines on Election Day.