It is Election Day 2006, a joyous day that is commemorated by standing in long lines at the polls and being accosted by boosters
of the candidates.
Millions of Americans, however, will be missing out on all the fun, as they have already voted upwards of a month ago.
Thirty states, mostly from the Midwestern
and Western regions of the country, have enacted no-excuse absentee balloting.
Absentee ballots were formerly only granted to out-of-state students, soldiers, or other people with extenuating circumstances that would not allow them to be present at their polling station on Election Day.
Now, with no-excuse balloting, any Joe off the street can cast his vote before the election and be done with it.
Pennsylvania is not one of the states that offers this service, but anyone wanting to beat the voting rush can cast his or her vote in person at the local county clerks’ office.
While some view this as a gimmick to get more people to vote, others cite statistical evidence from the 2004 election to show just how big an impact absentee voting has made. Every western state, except Utah and Colorado, saw early voting rates making count for anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of that state’s total votes.
If allowing people to vote a month ahead of time actually gets more people out to vote in the long run, then these laws make perfect sense.
The voter apathy is so rampant in this country that anything that can be done to stimulate voting should be done.
Of course with all the positives that this initiative brings, there are some unattractive aspects. Due to the fact that Election Day is, for all intents and purposes, a month earlier in most places now, the campaign season will predictably start earlier.
This means there will be even more of those ridiculous mudslinging ads that already seem to dominate TV sets across the country.
Because of absentee voting, candidates will be trying to amass as many early votes as possible from the likely sources so they can focus on winning the votes of those who are undecided. Political propaganda will easily increase tenfold.
Many candidates now tailor their campaigns
to early voters with some rather drastic
measures. According to the “New York Times,” Phil Angelides, the Democrat who is running against incumbent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, spent $250,000 to mail three-quarters-of-a-million pamphlets that would arrive the same day as the absentee
As absentee ballots increase in popularity
in coming years, the tactics of candidates will become even more extreme.
Is this not a sad indictment of American society? Everything has to be super easy and super fast.
If we cannot get people to show up on one specified day, then we will give them a month.
If they refuse to come to the polling stations to cast their vote, well, we will just send the ballot to them and hope that they vote. How long will it be until the polls are done in real time and we can elect and re-elect whomever we want whenever we want?
This new voting initiative will be a success in the long run. For whatever reason, people do not come out to the polls on Election Day in November.
Because of this, making Election Day last a month greatly increases the chances of people voting.
Of course, this month-long Election Day will allow some of the more corrupt candidates to magically receive absentee votes from residents of the cemetery, among other political shenanigans.
Yet the benefits outweigh the risks in this case.
John Lamb can be reached at