December 01, 2004
Early voting all the time

Via Political Wire, the state of Florida liked its early voting experiment so much, it is talking about getting rid of Election Day.

Florida's election supervisors, impressed by the success of early voting, proposed dramatic reforms Tuesday that would eliminate Election Day, replace it with an 11-day election season and do away with precincts.

The association of the state's 67 chief elections officials voted in concept at its annual winter meeting in Orlando to informally present the idea to the Legislature and to start rallying support for what its members concede would be a sea change in how Floridians vote.


This past election season marked the first time that Florida used early voting across the state and it was a proven success, as some voters waited in line for hours in order to cast their ballot ahead of Election Day.

Election supervisors say the experience showed them they could move away from the traditional Election Day and a precinct structure many believe is outdated. Instead of hundreds of precincts in a county, for example, voters could go to any of a few super-voting sites equipped with enough machines and personnel to keep lines at a minimum.

I like this proposal a lot, and the main reason I like it is that it seems to me that a lot of allegations of voter intimidation and fraud have to do with what precinct people are voting in. The beauty of the early voting structure, and it was something we pushed hard at the Sharpstown HCDP headquarters as we were registering people, is that you can vote anywhere. No worries about what precinct you're in, no showing up to find out that you've been folded into another precinct's location. You'd have to make sure there are enough early voting locations and voting machines - things were more than a bit strained in Harris County this time around - but that's an easy enough problem to solve.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any serious objections to this which don't have to do with tradition. I'd like to see precincts kept for data purposes, but other than that, I'd be happy to see this adopted universally. Anyone disagree?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 01, 2004 to Show Business for Ugly People | TrackBack

I have no serious disagreement, and have long thought that an extended election period is a good idea, but there are a couple of things worth thinking about.

For one thing, in presidential years, in Texas, precinct caucuses happen right after the closing of polls in the primaries; if the primaries were similarly spread out, attendance at the precinct caucuses would probably decline quite a bit.

For another, a long election period in a general election gives a lot of time in which people bent on evil deeds could, for example, leak intermediate results to parties or campaigns. Yes, this is illegal, because if one party has intermediate results and the other doesn't, the advantage in strategizing GOTV efforts could be considerable. But IIRC, there's at least one instance (San Luis Obispo, CA, 2002, I believe) of a Diebold machine that "phoned home" in the middle of election day, so this concern is not merely theoretical.

All in all, I believe the advantages of an extended period outweigh the disadvantages. Count me as a supporter of the notion, even if there's work to be done on the implementation.

Posted by: Steve Bates on December 1, 2004 1:55 PM

I agree with you. I voted early for the first time this year, and I definitely prefer this sytem to the old-fashioned precinct system, where I never knew where my voting place would be from one election to the next, and it was hard to look up because I could rarely recall exactly what precinct I was in.

Posted by: Peter on December 1, 2004 3:24 PM

I like the idea. Anything that increases voter turnout is a good idea in my opinion. It's little mystery that one state that has done just what Florida is proposing - eliminate election day all together in favor of an 11-day election process has the highest turnout in the nation. That's Oregon where 84% of registered voters (70% of eligible voters) turned out this year.

Posted by: Byron L on December 1, 2004 3:38 PM

If they're not going to make a true federal holiday for election day, a day when nobody has to work, then I'm all over the idea of having a couple weeks for voting. They'll just need to make sure that I don't have to stand in line for nearly an hour every year.

Posted by: Sue on December 1, 2004 4:07 PM

Early voting doesn't mean early vote counting. In every state in which I am familiar they don't actually count the early votes until election day so the fears about leaks are probably misplaced.

I like the idea and I think Oregon and Alaska do it right. In Alaska they still have a regular election day but there are early voting locations all over the state and in convenient places like malls and airports. You can vote in any early voting location anywhere in the state. They use optical scan ballots and if they don't have the one for your precinct (with the correct local candidates) then they can print one off the computer for you to use.

Posted by: Kent on December 1, 2004 4:32 PM

Best idea Florida's had since, well, you know.

It's even better than Texas's system. TX had 12 days of early voting this year, but they were strategically juggled so as to include only a single weekend. This proposal would include two weekends.

The devil's in the details, though. If all the early voting locations end up in the most Republican regions of the county, so most Democrats have to drive to the polls (as was reportedly done in one Florida county this year - Broward I think but I can't remember where I saw this) it could seriously impede Democratic turnout, since many poorer voters don't have wheels.

In every state in which I am familiar they don't actually count the early votes until election day so the fears about leaks are probably misplaced.

You're neglecting the possibility of modem- or Internet-connected electronic voting networks. Machines count in real time.

Posted by: Mathwiz on December 2, 2004 4:48 PM