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Di Leo: One Election Day and a Thousand Regrets




By John F. Di Leo - 

The primary season has only just begun, but already, it has reminded us of several truisms that the major parties always forget from year to year:

  • That young people just don’t vote in the numbers that older people do, so don’t build your hopes upon changing the makeup of the electorate…
  • That money can’t make up for a lack of charisma, so a rich bore can’t just spend his way to victory…
  • and of course, That our primary calendar looks like something designed by a practical jokester rather than someone who wants the best for America.

But the most definitive truism that was reinforced the week of Super Tuesday, 2020, is this:

For a republic’s election process to function properly, each election needs to be a snapshot in time. The same information needs to be available to all participants before they cast their ballots, so a proper election must take place on a single day.

Unfortunately, despite the undeniable advantage in a single-day election as a means of gauging the public’s will, there are disadvantages as well.

Some people travel, for business or for pleasure… Some people could be in the hospital, or could be far away at college.  Voters could be scheduled for surgery or other obligations that make participation in an election in one’s own precinct difficult, or even impossible. Voters could be servicemen stationed abroad, in peacetime or even at war; soldiers and sailors can hardly fly home for an election.

Our system, therefore, has always offered some exceptions to the same-day plan. You can request an absentee ballot, and vote several weeks before the rest of your neighbors voted.

Importantly, though, in the old days, it was always acknowledged that this absentee approach was a negative, because you might not have as much information as your neighbors, and that might cause you to make the wrong choice.  Its only advantage was being better than missing the election entirely.

But we had to allow it, and so we did. 

We never made it easy to vote early, but we made it possible, though cumbersome… to discourage it.

If only we had left it at that.

As volunteers have grown harder to come by, political organizations, both the parties and the candidates themselves, organizations have found it more and more difficult to manage the many election day activities of old.

So, the parties in power thought to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be great, wouldn’t it be easier, if we could bank some of those votes in advance?  Instead of making absentee voting hard, let’s make early voting easy. Sell it as an enlargement of the franchise. Sell it as a ‘good government’ effort.”

So it is that today, amazingly, in many states, half the voters have already made their decisions and cast their ballots, weeks before election day.

This facilitates both honest election day efforts and dishonest ones… It enables political organizations to call their supporters who have not yet voted, and help get them to the polls in time… but it also helps the corrupt organizations to know which registered voters can be pressured or threatened to cast their votes in time, and which non-voting names on the list are still available to illegally vote on their behalf. The tool of early voting facilitates both of these corrupt measures, so we can see why they are popular with corrupt pols.

The public knows of the many other dangers of early voting, even if it is blissfully unaware of the ubiquitousness of vote fraud.

We have seen too many last minute revelations, and often, last minute dirty tricks, causing people’s opinion on this issue to flip back and forth.  If a last-minute revelation was true, then voting in advance caused some voters to miss information that might have affected their decision; if a last-minute revelation was false, and there was no time for the slandered candidate to correct the record, then voting in advance at least insulated some voters from the lie.  It does go both ways.

But the 2020 primary session has once again reminded us of the biggest drawback of early voting, at least in the primary season:

By the fifth election day of this cycle, Super Tuesday, several major candidates dropped out.

Three candidates who had been on the debate stage from the start – Senator Amy Klobuchar, billionaire Tom Steyer, even Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the man who actually won the first contest, in Iowa – dropped out of the Democratic presidential nomination race between South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

How many voters had already wasted their ballots, by irretrievably casting them for people who dropped out in the days prior to the election?

Amazingly, the effort to run away from same-day elections has even spread to caucus states… Iowa at least used to be free of this risk since you had to show up on caucus day to participate, but not anymore.  

Now, in an effort to avoid being attacked for making participation “inconvenient,” some caucus states allow participation in advance, so early voting can cause wasted votes there as well.

At this writing, the problem is far from over, as bigger candidates – candidates with noticeable support – are now dropping like flies… both Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped out in the days following Super Tuesday.

How many of the people who have already cast early votes for other upcoming states are now kicking themselves for wasting their votes on these dropouts?

On Tuesday, March 10,  we will see the primaries for Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington… these recent major departures from the race, between Feb 29 and March 5, fell after the effective mail-by date for absentee ballots, and in the dead center of most early-voting windows for these states.

There can be no taking back a ballot. As long as America remains devoted to the concept of the secret ballot (as we must be, in a country with so much organized crime in our big city political machines), there can be no retrieval of a balance, once cast.  We must just acknowledge the fact that the vote that the voter probably cared about most of all has been wasted.

Our society needs to acknowledge the fact that simplicity has its negatives as well. Voting at one’s convenience, days or weeks before the election, doesn’t just increase the risk that a voter will regret his vote when new news comes to light.  In primaries and caucuses especially, early voting increases the likelihood of having voted for someone who is no longer even in the running by the time one’s neighbors show up on election day. and that can’t be good for the system.

From a good government perspective, of course, the most important reason to reduce early voting is to control vote fraud.  Early voting facilitates fraud like nothing else…  but of course that aspect is a nonstarter with the Democrats, as the party that benefits from it.

But even Democrats just might be responsive to reason on this issue, if they realize that there are few more severe discouragements from election participation, long-term, than having voters get excited about a candidate, work for him and cast their votes, only to find that it was all for naught by election day.


Copyright 2020 John F Di Leo

John F Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer, writer and actor. His columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.


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  1. I’ll add one (I could add many), as a former candidate when canvassing door to door, I often heard from the homeowner that they regretted voting early for another candidate and has I gotten their earlier they would have voted for me. I heard the same thing right after the debates which were partially pointless when debates were scheduled after early voting had began.
    And as you mentioned, IL is designed to be an incumbent protection system first, a duopoly protection system second, and a large money system third, and then assisting the voters in making an informed decision dead last.
    For those who have not thought about it, you submit yoru petitions in Nov, get through the challenges right around Christmas and then you essentially have to sit as it ticks voters out to get mailers or have you canvass during the Christmas season(at least Republicans and conservatives) and experience has shown the earliest you can start making contact with the masses is about Jan 15th, but even then you will tick off about 1/3 of the people you reach out to. Sp truly effective campaigning begins about the 3rd week of January (try to get volunteers out in that nice January weather to walk for you) and that leaves just a few weeks before early voting begins for the primary. It really is hard to challenge the status quo under such circumstances and of course that is by design. The logistics are very difficult to overcome.

  2. I agree. Political landscapes can change greatly in the last weeks before an election.
    Early voting isn’t an answer.
    It just causes another problem.
    As for petition canvassing: As a precinct committeeman I always encouraged candidates to begin as early as the law allowed, to get the number of signatures required before bad weather hit (some actually did so.)