We hear a lot about Election Day, including during the run up to this past election. But we do not really have an election day any more. We have an election month, or even longer, because early voting has become so common and so widely used. Is it time to reconsider early voting?
The problem with early voting is that many people are voting before a significant amount of the information about the candidates is sent to the general public, via direct mail, commercials, newspaper and television coverage and so forth. Something that happens or new information that is revealed in the last two weeks before Election Day might have swayed the results twenty years ago, but that same event or information would not have nearly the impact today.
The thought of a single Election Day where “Americans come together as a nation to perform a collective civic duty” is a romantic notion but not an entirely realistic one in today’s society. So many people have gotten used to early voting that going back to a single Election Day is not realistic – especially if we want to expand turnout.
Perhaps the answer is an election weekend – polls would be open from 6 am to 8 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday with all of the votes counted on Monday. This should give people plenty of opportunity to vote while reaching the goal of having a more informed electorate and making the last weeks of the campaign more meaningful. It would be important to have enough polling places, voting machines and election staff in place to cover those three days. But we should definitely work toward condensing voting into a much shorter time frame than we have now.