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

Paul Johnson

October 18th, 2010
6:34 am

Bob, nobody asked you. Maybe if you had a life outside of politics, you would understand that people are working as hard as they can and need some flexibility to exercise their civic responsibility. I’m sure you are also aware that conservatives do better when there is only one day and one way to vote.

Drew B

October 18th, 2010
6:53 am

Early voting is another word for voter fraud.


October 18th, 2010
7:04 am

A political race is not a sprint to the finish line, or so finely calibrated that it ends neatly on election day. It’s a marathon and a voter can easily make a well-informed decision weeks before election day. If that weren’t true, the polls would show undecided 100% throughout the campaign.

John Honey

October 18th, 2010
7:12 am

Bob, I don’t understand exactly what your complaint is about early voting. Is it that candidates may show their true colors or a new position or make a blunder during early voting but before actual election day? If that’s the case, it’s just as likely a candidate may show his true colors or make a blunder AFTER election day! In either case, a voter’s vote has been cast. Is your complaint more that early voting is more open to fraud? And if so, is it because it’s early or because it’s electronic? I would definitely agree with you about electronic voting. Do away with it. But the idea that early paper balloting is being…on a wide-scale…somehow tampered with? I don’t buy it, though we know it can and does happen occasionally…just like it does on actual election day.

Perhaps those like yourself who oppose early voting should really check and see if it’s merely nostalgia for the good ol’ days of going to the polls only on election day. It does though seem to make sense, if I were in charge of early voting, to limit it to a week or so before the election, to try to let all voters have approximately the same information before voting. If anything though, having only one day to cast your vote may hamper the process…emergencies occur, problems at the polling booth. I like having a few days, up to a week, to cast a vote. I do agree that a month is FAR too long to draw out voting.

I appreciate your committment to liberty and look forward to continuing to work with you and others who value it!


October 18th, 2010
7:15 am

Before the scramble for seats, voters should have to wait for the music to stop. Every child knows this, and that’s why most birthday parties end in chaos and tears after one of the contestants in musical chairs cheats.

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.


October 18th, 2010
7:45 am

If you don’t support Early voting, How about moving Voting to the weekend. This way Working Americans can ensure they have time to vote.


October 18th, 2010
7:48 am

Being concerned about early voting is like a Doctor being greatly concerned about a hangnail on a terminally ill cancer patient. Our entire political system is so flawed it is threatning the very survival of America as we know it. History teaches any country or Empire with this degree of flaws will not last.

Mr. Spock

October 18th, 2010
7:55 am

Your argument about some issue with early voting is muddled, at best. You think it is a “dumb idea” but can’t articulate why with any specificity. I voted early and have no qualms about it. My regret is that I could not have voted earlier for my small voice to expedite the cleansing the cesspool that has become Washington.


October 18th, 2010
7:58 am

I completely agree–only an informed vote is the best vote–and that’s after the campaign concludes. Why have we become such an impatient, speed-oriented society? Fortunately, we don’t expect the leaves to turn color early in autumn (or do we?). Great article once again, Mr. Barr!

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

October 18th, 2010
7:58 am

Well, I early vote and then do it again on election day. My Mommy’s been dead for 15 years, but I always order a absentee ballot for her and mail it back in. They don’t know she’s dead and GA don’t have much checking of absentee voting. Then on election day I go in and vote in my own name. That makes my voting twice as important as other peoples voting.

Vote early and vote often, I always say. And make danged sure Those People need to show photo ID to vote.


October 18th, 2010
8:29 am

A better idea would be to remove the (R) or the (D) next to candidate names. This would force people to actually take a moment to look at the person they are voting for rather than voting for a letter.


October 18th, 2010
9:30 am

Well, Bob, I think you included your real problem within your text: “Polls show that Obama carried as much as an 18 point margin over John McCain among these voters.” Would you be so critical if the figures were reversed. Believe me, I knew I wasn’t voting for John McCain long before election day.


October 18th, 2010
9:35 am

I agree its BS, have an election day, people need grow up and quit acting like a child their whole lives.

Road Scholar

October 18th, 2010
9:53 am

Bob, the blogger has a good idea. Move the voting to include a weekend date, maybe Sunday through Tuesday. Having more than one day also allows those who work or travel to vote on those days. Other states/countries do this.

Richard: I’m for that. In an interesting comment by Jesse Ventura (not an endorsement, but he is always interesting) he stated that instead of a 3rd party (because they’ll have to become “corrupt” just like the other two) have no parties. Imagine, a candidate would have to run on his own abilities, thoughts, experience, communication skills, etc. w/o a group “shoving” the candidate in a certain direction.

Say What??

October 18th, 2010
10:00 am


Why aren’t my comments allowed to post?

Tychus Findlay

October 18th, 2010
10:09 am

Not only is early voting dumb, it should be illegal. Convenience aside, early voting panders to the population that has made up its mind before the campaign has run its course.


October 18th, 2010
10:33 am

“Our entire political system is so flawed it is threatning the very survival of America as we know it.” Agreed.

Include a weekend day to vote – agreed. And don’t tell me to “grow up”. Think of the single parent with a job and a “normal” commute and you can start to understand just how hard it is to vote. Add a wait time of anything more than a few minutes at the polling place and you have disaster, especially when you have people with a valid fear of losing their jobs – and no, the little “I Voted Today” sticker doesn’t stop your boss from running up one side and down the other. I am blessed that I have the flexibility to stand in line in the morning or leave work early to vote — many do not.

Remove D and R and/or get rid of parties – AMEN. And while you are at it, state on the ballot how long they have been in office.

Sick of all of them. What happened to “None of the Above” from Brewster’s Millions? Can I write in a vote for “the People”? Anything to stop the madness of the political class.


October 18th, 2010
10:44 am

“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.”

Are you suggesting Republicans weren’t also afforded the opportunity to vote early? I really don’t get your grievance.

Dr. Pangloss

October 18th, 2010
10:49 am

What kind of birdbrain waits until Election Day to make up his mind?


October 18th, 2010
10:55 am

Drew B: How is early voting fraud?

Bob: I would agree with the weekend voting, but also add on Friday and Monday. That would permit those of different faiths to have options not to vote on their church days, and it allows flexibilities for those who only work week days or who work all weekends.

Richard: YES–remove the party labels, but ALSO remove the designation for who is in Incumbant. Voters are lazy, and tend to just vote for the same person if they’re not sure.

I believe the British recently conducted its entire campaign and voting period for Prime Minister in under a month. Wouldn’t that be nice to limit both the obscene secret funding of filth on TV to a shorter time frame?.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

October 18th, 2010
10:59 am

Early voting is not nearly so dumb as allowing non-taxpayers to vote. Those with no vested interest in sound fiscal policy ought not have any say in the confiscation and distribution of private wealth.

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 18th, 2010
11:12 am

I’m not really opposed to early voting but a week would be long enough. Personally, I prefer to wait until election day to give the candidates as much time as possible, to do or say something stupid.

Richard Bagge

October 18th, 2010
11:53 am

I’ve always said that we should have a voting week, and that voting should be mandatory for all citizens over that period. Say that’s when you renew your drivers’ license and pick up your tax forms or social security check or something. If for religious or other ethical reasons, you don’t wish to cast a ballot, then you press the button for “I choose to abstain from this election.” That way we get 100% voter turnout.

But Bob, if you genuinely think that everybody can get time off from work to vote, you’re blind. My present and my previous employer were very generous and insisted that all their employees take whatever time was needed to wait in the line; nobody else I’ve worked for was half that decent. I worked in 2000 and 2004 for a national insurance company, and both of those presidential elections, I had to use 6 or 8 hours of PTO to wait in the very long line to vote. Heck, I once served on a jury for one week, and a fellow in our jury was fired on the Thursday for not coming into work. Until you start making everybody in the private sector respect the citizens’ need to fulfill their civic duty, early voting and the lunch hour-speed it takes to finish the vote, is the best option for all of us drawing a paycheck.


October 18th, 2010
12:07 pm

to follow-up last week’s nonsense about “term limits” it would appear voting “is a dumb idea” (that is to say, the act of “dumb” people). does it really matter if people act dumb on the first Tuesday in November, of if they act dumb 6 weeks prior?

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 18th, 2010
12:17 pm

But Bob, if you genuinely think that everybody can get time off from work to vote, you’re blind.

Georgia law requires that your employer give you time off, to vote.


October 18th, 2010
12:26 pm

You only think it’s dumb because it benefited Bama.


October 18th, 2010
12:47 pm

But you ASSUME some things… that there’s ACTUALLY a choice to be made between IDIOT A and IDIOT B! Waiting until the magic ELECTION Day isn’t likely to BOAST their IQ scores! Too, for those people who don’t watch TV, again the FINAL ad doesn’t make much , if any, impact…


October 18th, 2010
12:49 pm

I don’t need a few more days to know that Nathan Deal is a corrupt,liar who served in Congress and left with ethics violations. His entire political career has been my primer for not voting for him.


October 18th, 2010
1:12 pm


Love that idea. I know plenty of people who show up and just vote party line down the ballot. I tend to vote for a particular party, but I will not vote for the races that I don’t know anything about (commissioners, some school board stuff etc). I just figure it’s irresponsible of me.

As a student living out of state, I’ve participated in most state and local elections via absentee ballot. I tend to agree with Barr on the early voting topic. Because of this, I wait until two or three days from the election, and pay for first class mail. I don’t want to cast a vote too early in case something legitimate comes up that could have swayed my decision.


October 18th, 2010
1:32 pm

So let me understand this, Bob.

We, the electorate, should make our lives less convenient so that you and other career politicians and political hacks have an easier job of planning campaigns.

I thought you were a champion of liberties, Bob. Am I not educated enough to make up my mind on a candidate a few weeks in advance of the election?

I vote early. I vote every election. And I will never vote for you.


October 18th, 2010
1:38 pm


You mean the portion of the population that actually THINKS and goes out of their way to register for the early voting process?

I’m incapable of making a decision without being fed the information on someone else’s schedule?

If you truly believe what you wrote, you’re part of the problem.

Jason Meadows

October 18th, 2010
2:14 pm

Mr. Barr,
It is quite obvious you have not worked a 9-5 or more demanding job in 20 years (Licking whip cream off women at fundraisers is not considered work and you won’t develop carpal tunnel from the few hundred words you write in the AJC every week). Most of us have actual jobs. If you oppose early voting perhaps you should push for making all election days national holidays, which I personally would prefer.

Further if you wonder why early voters overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama over John McCain, that can easily be explained as follows. First the 18% lead he cites is misleading as the general population also voted in favor of John McCain by ~7.2%. This makes the positive variation in Obama’s favor ~10.8%. This lead can be explained in by the fact that voters that take part in early voting are more likely female (~2-3%) and more likely to be currently employed, and college educated than the voting population as a whole.

Take it as you will, but getting rid of early voting would make voting more difficult or impossible for many, and should be accurately considered as voter suppression. What kind of libertarian are you that you would desire to disenfranchise people of their ability to vote? Shouldn’t you be encouraging anything that increases the ability of citizens to have their votes counted even if you disagree with their choice? Or will you show yourself yet again to be cut from that old white southern conservative cloth that enjoys makes it difficult for people to exercise their rights?

Best Wishes,
Jason Meadows

Al Gore

October 18th, 2010
2:45 pm

If people voted early, there would be fewer cars on the road at the same time and that would help reduce global warming. And remember…I should have been in the white house. Al.


October 18th, 2010
2:48 pm

how is early voting any different than absentee voting? as an absentee voter i had to submit my vote to the sec of state before nov 2. based on your argument of early voting, absentee voting is a dumb idea too.

Stacey Hopkins

October 18th, 2010
3:10 pm

As long as we continue to use electronic voting machines without verifiable paper trails, I think early voting via absentee ballots is a necessity.

I can see the problem with an uninformed electorate, but I fail to see how current political campaigns do that, as they tend to gloss over what they’ve done and hide the not-so-flattering, just like a job interview. It takes citizen’s to uphold their civic duty to seek out and find the information from a variety of sources and the beauty of technology such as the Internet, allow that to happen far earlier. Also, there are plenty of organizations that do a great job of presenting such information well in advance, such as the League of Women Voters, VoteSmart.org, OpenCongress.org and more. Maybe a solution could be in terminating campaigns once early voting starts to establish a clear delineation; there’ s nothing new campaigns bring that isn’t already out there to begin with.


October 18th, 2010
3:22 pm

Anything that encourages greater turnout of voters is a good thing. If that is not a plus for conservatives, what does that tell you?

fred cobblestone

October 18th, 2010
4:19 pm

Voting should be held as a 24 or 48 hour event if you don’t like early voting. The system is designed to limited voters which is why it is held only on Tue from 7a-7p. If all eligible voters did vote it would be a nightmare.


October 18th, 2010
4:41 pm

Early voting is a “dumb idea” because it makes it more likely that people who traditionally have had difficulty getting to the polls will now be able to do so — the poor, the disabled, those who need transportation to the polls, etc. Because this group is not generally considered to be among the constituency Barr and his republican buddies seek to please, it’s understandable why he thinks that assisting them in their voting efforts is a “dumb idea.”

Swede Atlanta

October 18th, 2010
5:46 pm

Bob, stop being an idiot!!!

We have a serious issue with our democracy in that people don’t vote. Offering early voting either in person or absentee offers people an option to driving to a polling place on election day, dealing with often efficient but confused poll workers and casting their vote. We should do everything to encourage voters to vote. One rule only, vote early but do not vote often as in multiple times in the same election.

Personally I would prefer we adopt a British-style approach to elections where campaigning is limited to 6 weeks before the election. This would eliminate the painful mud slinging that has become the norm in our election cycles that go on for months if not years. The American public is tired of being bombarded with all the negativity and personal attacks.


October 18th, 2010
5:56 pm

It is cazy, you do not know who casts the ballots, who counts them , who verifies them, DOES ANYONE believe there WILL NO BE VOTER FRAUD by the DEMOCRATS??

Its their only hope of retaining power and we know for a fact Obama’s attorney general will not prosecute voter inimidation cases, so why should we expect him and Obama to investigate and prosecute voter fraud??


October 18th, 2010
5:58 pm

For those who travel for work schedules can be completely unpredictable. I always vote absentee and since ive already mailed it in, i guess its considered early voting. Imo there is nothing but goodness in being sure i can vote


October 18th, 2010
6:00 pm

I disagree about everyone voting, if you do not make an intelligent vote “democratic voters” thats worse than not voting at all.


October 18th, 2010
6:25 pm

Mr. Barr, sir,you are an idiot. You need to go back to Loserville, where you came from.

Real Athens

October 18th, 2010
7:03 pm


Why do you hate freedom?

Rafe Hollister

October 18th, 2010
7:59 pm

Ragnar: You are correct, too many people vote who should not.

Early voting causes more of the less informed to vote. People you see on the streets being asked political questions and they can not name the Vice President or their US Senator or Congressman can be loaded onto a bus, with the incentive of a free lunch, and bussed to the polls. The people on the bus pay off their free lunch by voting for the guy who bought the lunch.

With Georgia’s long early voting season, lots of bus loads of uninformed people can be voted. The same thing with absentee ballots, all you have to do is “help” these folks with their ballot.

As long as you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can be sure that Paul will vote for you.

I agree with those who want to remove the R and D after the names and we can vote for months, because the uninformed will get confused and cancel each other out.


October 18th, 2010
8:02 pm

Voter fraud? Fulton County sent my wife and I two ballots after we sent in Republican post cards. How many ballots do Democrats get?


October 18th, 2010
8:28 pm

Two ballots EACH !


October 18th, 2010
8:55 pm

It is not a negative procedure if you are voting against all incumbents!!

Real Athens

October 18th, 2010
9:09 pm


Boy, I sure do miss the good ‘ol days of Jim Crow.

The Dixiecrats of yore (Southern Conservative Democrats) have most assuredly become the GOP of today.

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

October 18th, 2010
9:24 pm

Still looking for the OLD Bob Barr – what has happened to you Bob? Why stand in a LONG line to vote when you can do it early?

I am a STRONG conservative, but I don’t see a problem with it. In fact,
I would guess early voting HELPS those that are working and paying taxes.

Heck, I’d be OK with only taxpayers being allowed to vote vs the dregs of society just voting for more handouts from the taxpayers.

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.