« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - Election Day

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) All of these circumstances have happened before. A candidate who’s running for office dies in the days before Election Day. A candidate drops out of the race at the last minute. A campaign scandal comes to light, the so-called “October surprise”.

All of these circumstances speak against early voting.

One of the unspoken (and forgotten) ideas about elections is that they are supposed to be snapshots of how the voters feel at a specific point in time. Early voting makes elections a rolling wave where votes roll in over a period of weeks or months.

Does it matter? Yes. Consider Missouri, 2000. Mel Carnahan, candidate for U.S. Senate, was killed in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day. His name still appeared on the ballot. If early voting was more widespread at the time, millions would have cast ballots for a man who was no longer alive when their votes were tallied. (Carnahan won; his wife was appointed to his seat.) Consider 2013, when allegations of Arnold Schwarzenegger groping several women became public two weeks before a recall election. Shouldn’t absentee voters get to factor those revelations into their choice?

One of the concepts of a fair election is that all voters should be drawing from the same pool of information about the candidates. That’s not possible when some people are casting ballots in September for an election that’s supposed to take place in November.

Wisconsin doesn’t have early voting, but we have something similar with early, same-day absentee ballots. Anyone can request an absentee ballot for any reason – and can fill it out and file it with their county clerk’s office the same day they receive it. State lawmakers are looking to reign this in, after the Milwaukee City Clerk added weekend office hours months before the election to encourage people to vote early. People were literally bussed in to cast their ballots.

Opponents of this practice in the legislature are attacking the problem from a different angle – that it’s unfair of one community has dozens of days and hours of polling time available – where other smaller communities have a much smaller voting window. A bill that would limit the hours for absentee hours is likely to be approved in the State Senate today.

Here’s how elections should work: absentee ballots should be intended for people who will be out-of-town during all of Election Day or are physically unable to get to the polls because of age or illness. For everyone else, elections should take place on Election Day.

Chris Conley

Image: Election Day, Virginia, by By Bernard Pollack via WikiCommons.com