Early voting is fine for those who can't make the polls on Election Day. In a year of intense voter interest, early voting may also avert the meltdown that some worry could happen if darn near everybody did show up to vote on Election Day.
Nonetheless, my wife and I prefer to vote on Election Day itself. There is something important in going to the polls with our neighbors, being part of a special event on a special day. The ceremony and public spectacle set it apart, and rightly so, from going to the courthouse to renew one's drivers license. When we vote together, on a single day dedicated to that purpose, we get a better sense of voting as something we do together as a community. (To understand the psychology here, see the great Northern Exposure episode "Democracy in America" from February 24, 1992.)
Dr. Blanchard is even less of a fan of early voting. His critique, as you might expect, is more rigorous and hardnosed than ours. The good professor worries that early voting is an abdication of one's duty, bailing out before having heard all of the arguments that the candidates have to make.
I'm tempted to say my conservative friend is wishing everyone would hold off voting until Election Day just to give McCain time to cry socialism! a few more times or find some other magic argument that could save the GOP from total defeat. But Blanchard gives the issue fair treatment, even pointing out that Obama supporters and McCain supporters are equally likely to vote early. The poll numbers showing Obama ahead in early ballots simply reflect the fact that there are more Obama supporters than McCain supporters throughout the electorate.
I have some sympathy for Blanchard's argument. There may well be people who voted two or three weeks ago who, based on new information they've learned since then, already wish they had voted the other way. Of course, there are lots of people now who wish they'd voted differently for President in 2000.
I wonder: is there a substantive difference between the person who chooses to vote on October 15, without the benefit of the last three weeks of arguments, attack ads, and stock market dipsy-doodles and the person who votes on Election Day but "decided" back in January that he would vote Republican or Democrat just like Grampaw always did and thus ignores all of the campaign news and analysis? Just something to ponder over your raisin bran....
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