If vot­ing is sa­cred, early vot­ing must go

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Jonah Gold­berg is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices. Jonah Gold­berg The Na­tional Review

Let’s work back­ward. Less than a week be­fore the elec­tion, the Wall Street Jour­nal and Fox News’ Bret Baier re­ported that the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion has been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for “pay-for-play” al­le­ga­tions for over a year — and that the Department of Jus­tice may have been try­ing to mon­key-wrench the ef­fort.

Eleven days be­fore the elec­tion, FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey an­nounced that he was re­open­ing the in­quiry into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails. A few days be­fore that, Wik­iLeaks dropped a bomb­shell of a hacked memo show­ing the full ex­tent of “Clin­ton Inc.” — the tawdry, tacky and some would ar­gue crim­i­nal web of for-profit, non­profit and po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties that make up the Clin­ton em­pire. A cou­ple weeks be­fore that, NBC News re­leased a tape of Don­ald Trump de­scrib­ing how he likes to sex­u­ally as­sault women. Since then, nearly a dozen women have come for­ward de­scrib­ing treat­ment that closely tracks the be­hav­ior Trump him­self de­scribed in an un­guarded mo­ment.

Those are just the high­lights.

Both can­di­dates have also made con­tro­ver­sial state­ments about their poli­cies and philoso­phies. In the third de­bate, Clin­ton re­fused to sup­port any lim­i­ta­tions on even late-term abor­tions. She also claimed that the long­time gun ban in Washington, D.C., ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional by the Supreme Court in the Heller de­ci­sion, was re­ally just an ef­fort to keep tod­dlers from get­ting their hands on guns.

And Trump? Well, let’s just say he’s said a lot of things.

And you know what else hap­pened dur­ing all of this? Peo­ple have been vot­ing. A lot.

Early-vot­ing start times vary by state and of­ten by county. In Min­nesota, peo­ple started casting bal­lots in Septem­ber. In Ohio, vot­ing be­gan just five days after the “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape sur­faced, three days after the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate and a week be­fore the fi­nal de­bate. As of this writ­ing, more than 22 mil­lion peo­ple have voted al­ready. In all, an es­ti­mated 40 per­cent of vot­ers will cast bal­lots be­fore Elec­tion Day. And that’s nuts. Be­fore you rush to the safety of the usual ar­gu­ment, let me ad­mit that, of course, some early and ab­sen­tee vot­ing is nec­es­sary. Ob­vi­ously, over­seas mil­i­tary per­son­nel and vot­ers with cer­tain dis­abil­i­ties should be ac­com­mo­dated. But de­fend­ing their right to vote ab­sen­tee is not a de­fense of masss­cale early vot­ing.

The stan­dard ar­gu­ment against wide­spread early vot­ing is that it en­cour­ages many peo­ple to make their de­ci­sions with­out im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion avail­able to the vot­ers who wait un­til Elec­tion Day. That’s re­ally not de­bat­able, so early-vot­ing sup­port­ers con­cede the point and then say it just doesn’t matter. They note that the peo­ple most likely to cast early votes are com­mit­ted par­ti­sans, im­mune to new facts and in­for­ma­tion. There’s surely some truth to that, but as the scale of early vot­ing in­creases with each year, it must also be less and less true ev­ery year. Also, one might won­der why peo­ple who de­cry the rise of ide­o­log­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion and par­ti­san­ship are so ea­ger to make it eas­ier for hard­core par­ti­sans to vote.

Comey’s bomb­shell is a per­fect il­lus­tra­tion of how new facts can make a hash of things. Trump is im­plor­ing peo­ple who’ve al­ready cast their votes for Clin­ton to rem­edy their “buyer’s re­morse” and switch to Trump — which is le­gal in six states. The prob­lem is worse in the pri­maries. Vot­ers of­ten cast early bal­lots for can­di­dates who drop out be­fore Elec­tion Day. That’s real voter sup­pres­sion.

But my main prob­lem with early vot­ing is dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery day we hear pi­ous ac­tors, ac­tivists and politi­cians talk about the solemn and sa­cred duty to vote, and yet ev­ery­one wants to make vot­ing eas­ier and more con­ve­nient. Many still dream of the most cocka­mamie idea of all: on­line vot­ing, so we can make choos­ing pres­i­dents as easy as buy­ing socks on Ama­zon.

This gets hu­man na­ture ex­actly back­ward. Noth­ing truly im­por­tant, never mind sa­cred and solemn, should be treated as a triv­ial con­ve­nience. Churches that ask more of the faith­ful do bet­ter at at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing con­gre­gants. The Marines get the best and most com­mit­ted re­cruits be­cause they have higher stan­dards. Elite schools de­mand more from stu­dents and get more as a re­sult. No won­der one study found that early vot­ing ac­tu­ally low­ers turnout be­cause it makes Elec­tion Day seem like a less spe­cial event.

Of course we shouldn’t put up any in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cles to vot­ing. But if we want cit­i­zens to value their vote, why are we con­stantly low­er­ing the price?

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