NEW YORK — Any juror who tried to render a verdict after hearing two-thirds of trial evidence would be booted by the judge. Any sports writer who filed a story with a baseball game’s final score after six innings would be sacked. So why do we let people vote — for president, no less — days or even weeks before Election Day?
Early voting is a political cancer that screams to be excised. Super Tuesday’s results offer a fresh MRI of this growing malignancy.
After former vice president Joe Biden won a 29-point victory in the South Carolina primary, he enjoyed the second most consequential resurrection in the last 2,000 years. A campaign that had received last rites suddenly leapt from its deathbed with a new spring in its step. Biden became the 77-year-old comeback kid. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat from South Bend, Ind., swiftly fell into line, mothballed their campaigns, and endorsed Biden.
What a nightmare for millions of Americans who considered themselves brilliant for voting early. Pity for them, they effectively disenfranchised themselves by backing horses that collapsed before reaching the finish line.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold explained bluntly, via Twitter: “If you turned in a ballot voted for a candidate who is no longer in the race, you cannot vote again.”
Some 4 million Democrats voted early in Super Tuesday states, according to NBC News’ analysis of TargetSmart’s data. Among them: 158,000 in Arkansas, 190,000 in Massachusetts, 750,000 in California and 1 million in Texas. These surely included hundreds of thousands who whispered, “Oops!” when Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer stalled.
As the chief transmitters of this disease, it’s ironic that early voting may have cost Democrats a U.S. House seat. On the eve of a May 2017 special election, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulted and broke the glasses of Ben Jacobs, a journalist from London’s Guardian newspaper. Many of the 37% of citizens who cast early votes were justifiably appalled and tried to abandon Gianforte. But their ballots were beyond reach. News of Gianforte’s thuggery might have sunk him on Election Day. But the ballots of hurried, under-informed voters helped him defeat Democrat Rob Quist 50.1% to 44.1%, with Libertarian Mark Wicks scoring 5.7%.
In 2016, North Carolina’s early voting began on Sept. 9 — 17 days before Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump first debated. This is somewhere between creepy and un-American.
Early voting also requires marked ballots to languish for days or weeks. What could go wrong?
Fraud is a genuine risk. Making early ballots disappear from overwhelmingly Democrat or Republican precincts could throw elections. Even if nothing inappropriate happened, as ballots gather dust, they generate suspicions of monkey business, especially in skin-tight races. Such doubts corrode confidence in institutions and officials.
Even among angels, storing ballots for weeks risks their innocent misplacement, damage or destruction in fires, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes.
This early-voting tumor should be removed and replaced with what served America spectacularly for centuries. Voters listen to debates, weigh candidates’ positions and promises, and await game-changing news.
Then, Americans gather on Election Day (not Election Month) and jointly choose our parties’ and our nation’s leaders.
Yes, concentrating votes on one day would consolidate turnout and create new challenges. Moving Election Days to Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. through Sundays at 6:00 p.m. would provide ample weekend time for people to vote. Across those 24 hours, workers should be able to exercise their franchise off-shift. Devout Christians, Jews and Muslims would find time within that span to vote without violating their religious practices.
Who would staff the polls under this arrangement? Atop the unsung precinct volunteers who supervise today’s elections, why not recruit off-duty and retired military personnel, first responders and teachers? Their civic-mindedness makes them ideal to oversee a new system in which able-bodied, non-absent Americans voted solely on — what a concept! — Election Day.