Should early voting be a constitutional right? | The Tylt

Should early voting be a constitutional right?

According to NBC News's Data Analytics Lab, 35 million people–and counting–cast early ballots prior to the 2018 midterm election. 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, offer early voting. Proponents of the system say it increases poll accessibility, enabling people who cannot take off work on a Tuesday to visit the polls. But some argue early voting tears the very fabric of democracy, allowing votes to be cast before campaigning has concluded. What do you think? 

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Should early voting be a constitutional right?
A festive crown for the winner
#Right2VoteEarly
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Should early voting be a constitutional right?
#Right2VoteEarly
#KeepVotingLaws

According to NBC News's Data Analytics Lab, reports the day before the 2018 midterm election showed that 35 million people submitted their ballot via early voting. This number dwarfs the 20 million early voters accounted for the day before the 2014 midterm election. 

There are two main ways early voting occurs in states that allow it: 

  1. You show up to the polls on a designated day prior to Election Day. Everything is the same, except for the day and time you cast your ballot. Most people who vote this way do so because it is more convenient; you can plan your schedule around your chosen voting time, rather than Election Day dictating your schedule. 
  2. You request an absentee ballot. All states offer absentee ballots, but 20 states require an excuse for the request. This kind of voting is largely for people who are unable to get to their polling place. If you're injured, in the military or living abroad, you might request an absentee ballot prior to Election Day. 
#Right2VoteEarly

In 2014, a bipartisan commission recommended that voting be made accessible prior to Election Day, citing advantages to individual voters like avoiding long lines and taking off from work or school. According to the report, "no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote." But for many, this idea remains a fantasy. 

When citizens wait hours to vote on Election Day, mistakes are more likely to happen. Since Election Day falls on a Tuesday every year, lines are notoriously long in the early morning and in the afternoon. People scramble to get to the polls at the same time, creating chaos. In order to combat this reality, the Brennan Center’s Democracy Agenda points out:

We need more opportunities to vote, not less. Expanding early voting solves the problem. Nationwide, every state should offer early in-person voting a minimum of two full weeks before Election Day, including weekend and evening hours.
Early voting eases congestion on Election Day, leading to shorter lines, improved poll worker performance, and improved voter satisfaction. It also allows for earlier correction of registration errors and voting system glitches.
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Article 1 of the Constitution gives states the responsibility to oversee federal elections. There are a number of existing laws on the federal level that address voter accessibility, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Help America Vote Act, and the Election Assistance Commission

These laws require things like wheelchair-accessible voting booths, transportation to the polls and downloadable election guides in different languages. 

The Constitution gives states the ability to oversee federal elections as a balance of power. The more federal mandates on voting, the more that balance of power is reversed. 

#Right2VoteEarly

Historically, Election Day falls on a Tuesday in order to allow people to travel to their poll without disrupting Sunday services or the markets on Wednesdays. The origins of Election Day are clearly obsolete. Today, voting in the middle of the week is inconvenient for almost every voter, and leaving the public to figure out how to cast a ballot on a work day is akin to voter suppression. 

The 2016 election saw widespread problems and malfunctions at polls. USA Today's Richard Wolf and Kevin McCoy reported:

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, problems being reported included long lines and delayed poll openings in New York; malfunctioning voting machines in Virginia; and confusion with closed or delayed-opening polling places in Georgia and Texas. 
A coalition of more than 100 civil rights and voting rights groups running a national election protection hotline reported that 40% of its calls came from African American and Hispanic communities, a possible indication that minority voters were being targeted.

As to whether or not the Constitution guarantees the right to vote before Election Day, according to the Constitution Center, the answer is "maybe." If early voting is the only way certain people can get the polls, the opportunity must be offered in order to fulfill equal opportunity under the 14th Amendment. 

The aftermath of Ohio's disastrous 2004 election is one example. Wait times grew to be over 12 hours long, causing many people to go home or return to work without voting. As a result:

The legislature reacted in 2005 by creating 'no-excuse early voting,' with a polling place open in each county for 35 days before the actual election day. That and other features of early voting were used in the next four elections. It is estimated that, in the 2012 election, nearly one out of three Ohioans who voted did so early.
#KeepVotingLaws

Politico's Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis write that although early voting benefits the individual voter, "early voting run amok is bad for democracy." The pair states that early voting must be regulated and scaled back as soon as possible before it permanently changes the nature of voting across the county:

The integrity of [the citizens’ choice] is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts. They may cast their ballots without the knowledge that comes from later candidate debates (think of the all-important Kennedy-Nixon debates, which ran from late September 1960 until late October); without further media scrutiny of candidates; or without seeing how they respond to unexpected national or international news events—the proverbial “October surprise.”

Early voting manipulates the system by allowing some voters to cast a ballot with incomplete information.

#Right2VoteEarly

There is a cost associated with voting. Most voters have to make accommodations in order to reach the polls, including setting up care for their children, taking time off work or stepping away from school. These costs only increase for lower-income communities, who have less access to such accommodations. As The Washington Post's Emily Badger puts it: 

Minorities disproportionately work in non-salaried jobs where they're less likely to receive paid time off to travel to the polls on election day during business hours...access to voting is also about access to transportation, housing, good jobs, stable incomes and education. And to the extent that systemic barriers exist to any of these for minorities and the poor, they have to work that much harder to cast a ballot
Early voting, in short, isn't merely a matter of convenience. It's a recognition of the fact that many forms of historic discrimination and economic inequality have also, as a downstream consequence, made it harder for minorities to vote.

Early voting should be made a constitutional right so that citizens in every state actually have equal opportunity to participate in Election Day. Voting is the most important right given to the citizens of the United States, and it's time the country recognize that the current system to do so falls short of the country's needs. 

#KeepVotingLaws

Voting weeks before Election Day diminishes the importance of debates between candidates, as well as breaking news relevant to candidates. The public's vote is meant to be based on information regarding a candidate's policies, conduct and history, and early voters cast ballots with a different set of information than those who wait until Election Day. 

Politico's Kontorovich and John McGinnis continue their reporting by pointing out: 

A single Election Day creates a focal point that gives solemnity and relevance to the state of popular opinion at a particular moment in time; on a single day, we all have to come down on one side or the other. But if the word “election” comes to mean casting votes over a period of months, it will elide the difference between elections and polls.
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should early voting be a constitutional right?
A festive crown for the winner
#Right2VoteEarly
#KeepVotingLaws