Friday, October 31, 2008

The Case Against One-Day Voting

With an estimated one out of three Americans casting ballots before Election Day this year, it may be time to rethink the tradition of having millions of voters swamp polling places on a Tuesday in November. Why just one day? Why not two, three or even a week?

The advantages of converting to an Election Week are many and obvious:

*With the uncertainties of electronic gadgetry, a longer period would reduce not only endless lines and voter frustration but allow more time to resolve registration challenges and to count and, if necessary, recount ballots;

*Races would not be decided by bad weather conditions that sometimes make it difficult for the aged and the infirm to get to polls;

*The self-employed and others who find it hard to take working time off would have the choice of voting on a Saturday;

*The process would not be so dependent on aggressive get-out-the-vote tactics by political parties.

When a Tuesday was chosen in 1845, people traveled by horse and buggy, and farmers often needed a day to get to the county seat and a day to get back, without interfering with the Sabbath. Now, in Nevada, we have voting machines in shopping malls.

This year, with record numbers of early votes and absentee ballots, there is a de facto move to a longer voting period. Even so, the new Congress may want to look back at next Tuesday's problems in what promises to be a record turnout and rethink the wisdom of squeezing the decision about our national future into a single day.

Some might insist that inconvenience should be a part of civic duty to weed out the unmotivated and uniformed. But that would be, to borrow a word from this year's campaign, an "elitist" argument.

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