Election law has embraced voting early and voting often


"Vote early and vote often" has traditionally been a glib shorthand for corrupt election practices. Now, it well describes the standard voting system. Most states allow early voting—as much as 45 days before the election—and some even allow voting often: repeated "re-dos" of one's early vote.

Today, I have (by coincidence) two op-eds on early voting, one in USA Today, where I debate the editorial board, and a longer one in The Hill.

From the Hill:

With early voting, elections becomes less about persuasion and more about campaign mechanics and mobilization. With voting taking months rather than a day, the advantage goes to the party best organized to research voting patterns and mobilize its base to lock in their votes early.

It makes the money and tactics in a campaign more important than the candidates and their position. In effect, it becomes more like shareholder proxy voting, where ordinary shareholders sign over their votes to big institutional actors long before any actual vote. This is a politics of bundling.

Supporters of early voting say limiting it would "disenfranchise" minority voters. This is based on evidence that early voting increases minority turnout somewhat—though that is far from inevitable, and black voting has fallen off in this year's early voting.

In any case, measures aimed at increasing a particular group's turnout are only mandated if they correct prior arrangements that were designed to suppress its participation.

But unlike poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures, there is absolutely no evidence that having an Election Day as opposed to an "Election Season" was designed to affect minority voting at all. Indeed, Americans voted on a particular day long before the universal extension of franchise.