Early voting detracts from Election Day

Freedom New Mexico

Thousands of votes will be cast in eastern New Mexico before Election Day in less than two weeks.

More than 20 percent of Clovis voters cast ballots early in the municipal election in March and, through Saturday, more than 1,200 from Curry County have already voted this time.

Early voting, which began Oct. 7, continues through Nov. 1.

It seems all terribly modern and American — as soon as we make up our minds, we can have instant gratification. No need to wait for the actual day and let doubt creep in.

There are advantages to having the extended weeks of voting. With many of the votes cast early, the pressure at the polling places lessen. In addition, the ballots can be counted while county clerks’ offices are waiting for the votes to come in from the polls, perhaps speeding up the vote count.

The turnout might increase because of the greater convenience — although that will be difficult to judge this year with the heightened interest in the presidential election.

The advantages are probably greater for citizens. They don’t have to stand in lines to vote. Long lines aren’t much of a problem in these parts, but still, people might save a few minutes. Most important, citizens can cast their ballots when time permits, working the vote into their harried schedules.

In practical terms, there are few disadvantages. The most important is that information might come out in the waning days that would change people’s minds. Early voters can’t get their votes back, and a candidate might win an election who, if the new information were known, otherwise would not. That’s possible after Election Day, too, of course.

But we think the larger downside to early voting concerns our sense of civic togetherness.

There was a book a few years back called “Bowling Alone” about the collapse of Americans’ sense of community. (More people bowl, but far fewer do so in leagues.) Our sense of division and isolation increases.

Our civic community suffers a blow when we no longer have that great, civic holiday of Election Day, where everyone goes to exercise their vote.

While it might not outweigh the practical benefits, it is becoming a loss, nonetheless.