Good for you, you got out of the house and went to vote. You even voted early. Maybe you got a sticker. As you cast that ballot for Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar you knew you were doing your civic duty. And now it doesn’t matter at all. Your vote might as well be a scratch off ticket that almost won discarded on the sidewalk.
This of course is the problem with early voting. The justification for early voting is that it encourages participation in our electoral process, which, its actually debatable if that is a laudable goal. But even if we assume that having more people vote is a good thing, what good does it do for anyone to cast a vote for a candidate who is no longer in the race.
This has always been a significant issue with early voting, but especially in this Democratic primary where the problem has become exacerbated by the sudden exits of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar from the race. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Buttigieg is nationally at 10 percent and Klobuchar is near 5 percent. While it’s not clear how many early votes they have received, those votes matter a lot in a race where candidates need to hit 15 percent in order to get a share of delegates.
With Buttigieg in particular, it is highly likely that votes wasted on him could help to keep candidates, specifically Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren from becoming viable in some states. One might argue that since votes accrue to the advantage of Joe Biden, who Buttigieg has endorsed, that it’s a “no harm, no foul” situation, but just because Mayor Pete endorsed Biden doesn’t mean he is the second choice of all Buttigieg voters.
Beyond simply the possibility of candidates dropping out before Election Day, there are a myriad of other possible problems with early voting. A scandal could drop, a medical condition could emerge, or, frankly, someone could just change his or her mind.
Given the fact that absentee ballots have always been available, it’s not clear why we even need early voting. Elections are important matters, so are people really incapable of finding ten minutes out of an entire election day to go vote? Do they really need three weeks? How important should convenience be to Democracy?
Voting is a right but it’s also a privilege. Allowing a political race to reach completion before making your choice just makes sense. Perhaps there is an argument to make for a few days of early voting, but weeks of early cannot be justified as this primary season shows us.
Rather than putting more power in the hands of the people, what early voting really does is put it in the hands of political machines and operatives. In the case of Buttigieg and Klobuchar, the timing of their exists, just a day before Super Tuesday isn’t just suspicious, it’s an obvious effort to help Joe Biden. For Bernie Sanders supporters this obvious gaming of the system should be and likely is infuriating.
It’s time to end, or at least limit, early voting. It is not needed and we now have a concrete example of its ability to influence an election in harmful ways. Sometimes experiments, even experiments in democracy fail. Such is the case with early voting. It does more harm than good, and it is a practice that should be ended.