Tuesday

October 17th, 2017

Insight

The Early Voter Gets Remorse

Debra J. Saunders

By Debra J. Saunders

Published Nov. 3, 2016

As I write this, more than 27 million Americans already have voted in the Nov. 8 election. California voters can submit their ballots 30 days before Election Day. Minnesotans can vote 46 days out — starting Sept. 23, i.e., before the first of the three general election presidential debates. Many early voters cast their ballots before recent revelations about Donald Trump's treatment of women and Hillary Clinton's wayward emails, so there have to be voters who regret their choice.

If Democrats and Republicans had known their actions in the primary election would produce the worst top-two nominees imaginable, then this general election might not be so ugly. I've talked to people who voted early just to get the whole dirty business over with.

Over the weekend, Fox News ran stories about the options available to those who want a vote do-over.

"I'm not in favor of do-overs," Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson responded when I asked for her take. "I don't get to go back to change my law school exam." According to a spokesman for the California Secretary of State, there are no ballot do-overs in California.

Me, I'd be on board for a vote do-over — but only if it is nationwide and includes the primary vote.

The very fact that people are asking about vote do-overs raises the question: Are some states giving citizens too much time to vote?

Tammy Frisby, who's in charge of the Hoover Institution's Golden State Poll, noted that this presidential race has seen "more than its fair share of October surprises." More campaign surprises lead to more voter remorse.

A bigger issue than presidential-pick remorse are down-ballot contests. While most early voters probably have a clear idea of whom they want in the Oval Office, they may be less informed about local elections. California has 17 ballot measures this year. Frisby believes average people — those who don't get paid to follow politics and policy — only start paying attention in the last month before an election.

The most recent Hoover poll shows that 37 percent of California voters aren't sure how they'll vote in the U.S. Senate race, where the top two candidates are Democrats. (Kamala Harris, the state attorney general, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.) Clearly, voters haven't focused on that race.

Asked how they'll vote on Proposition 61, which controls prescription drug prices the state pays, more Californians were not sure (25 percent) than said they would vote no (24 percent). Those examples, Frisby noted, show that when people vote before they are focused on a race, they probably are not making "the most educated" choice possible.

Cleveland State University law professor Candice Hoke explained that early voting exists to accommodate military personnel and their families, as well as residents who have to juggle voting with work, health issues, religious calendars and travel. A longer voting window is more convenient for voters and registrars, who want to process a maximum number of ballots and reduce the risk of a technology glitch hitting all voters at a particular place and time.

That said, Hoke agreed when I told her I thought 46-day and 30-day windows probably last too long. She suggested a window that lasts two weeks, or maybe 12 days but includes two weekends and all seven weekdays. She added, "That type of calendar would cover for every religion and work schedule."

Even before the election, many citizens feel voter remorse. I predict that in 2017, they'll also regret votes on ballot measures. Smart states don't encourage residents to vote before a campaign is over.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles