Early voting? Sure, you can vote now, but why?
We simply don’t understand the urgency of voting weeks before Election Day, which seems to be a growing trend among U.S. voters.
It’s estimated that as many as one-quarter of all votes will be cast before Nov. 6, a growing trend that will leave many voters casting ballots well before all the information is in.
Absentee ballots, first used during the Civil War, for decades were limited to people who simply could not be at the polls on Election Day.
Some states even required voters to sign an affidavit affirming they could not get to the polls. Typical excuses included military service, travel on Election Day or illness or infirmity.
But, starting in the 1970s, election officials began loosening the rules in hopes of expanding voter turnout. Now in more than half the states, including Maine, voters are allowed to request absentee ballots for no reason at all.
The Maine Secretary of State even provides a easy-to-use web request form for requesting an early ballot.
And there is absolutely no reason that people shouldn’t obtain a ballot before Election Day. It gives them an opportunity to see what’s on the ballot and think about it before casting their vote.
We’ve all had the experience of going into the polls and finding some issue or candidate that we’re not familiar with. So, by all means, obtain a ballot and study the issues.
But a political campaign season is like a snowball, the information upon which a decision is based grows as we approach Election Day.
There will be one more presidential debate and weeks of electioneering to come. The candidates will make their points, and momentum is likely shift back and forth several times.
We wouldn’t think of asking a jury to vote before both sides had made their cases and all of the information was in.
In 2010, some Mainers experienced a bit of early voting regret when independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler finally got his message out and surged against Paul LePage in the final weeks of the campaign.
Realizing that many voters had voted before he began climbing in the polls, Cutler’s campaign even advised candidates to withdraw their absentee ballots and vote again.
Few did, but we can’t help but wonder how many wished they had waited until they had all of the information before casting their ballot.
The right to vote is precious, and the issues before us are complex.
Mainers should wait until they have the complete picture before casting their vote.
Sun Journal, Lewiston (Oct. 18)