By Mike Deupree
Election Day (a quaint term still in common use, mostly because of nostalgia and tradition) is history.
This means we have a few weeks before the start of the next campaign when we can turn on the television without seeing political commercials; answer our phone without being asked for our money, our vote, or both; or go slop the hogs without encountering a presidential candidate.
This is great news for normal people, but not for political junkies, who risk withdrawal pains. Why not put that brief period to good use? Why not consider improvements to the election process?
For starters, why not round up the people responsible for TV commercials, polling and punditry, strip them naked, pour honey on them and tie them to an ant hill?
Just kidding. It’s far too cruel. After all, the ants didn’t do anything to deserve it.
Seriously, we dodged a bullet because the presidential election wasn’t as close as predicted. Our system practically ensures that any close election will produce something like Florida in 2000, and it’s getting worse. What can we do to make the process smoother, fairer and less vulnerable to chaos?
First, devote as much time and effort to enfranchising people serving in the military as to civilians who just don’t want to get off their butt and vote. The hurdles for military voters are a national disgrace.
Second, early voting. Don’t extend it; eliminate it.
This time around, more than a third of voters cast ballots before the day specified in the Constitution for the purpose, and the trend is to make this number larger. This is not wise.
Events can occur to change a voter’s mind. Voters die. Voters move. Voters forget they voted and try to vote again. Early voting puts a burden on election officials. It increases the opportunity for skulduggery.
Moreover, as long as the voting period is entirely arbitrary, there’s no limit. Some people know today which party’s nominee they will vote for in 2016. Why shouldn’t they cast their ballot this week and get it out of the way?
But, you say, won’t eliminating early voting make it more difficult for some people to vote? Yes, which brings us to the second suggestion: Replace Election Day with Election Week, a seven-day period encompassing July 4.
A week gives everybody time to vote. July 4 already is a holiday and especially appropriate for voting. It seldom snows. It doesn’t conflict with football season or the World Series or Halloween and Thanksgiving. Most college students could vote in their real hometowns instead of in their college towns (or both). The new government could take office at the start of a new fiscal year (Oct. 1).
Because some of these changes require amending the Constitution anyway, let’s require every state to allocate its electoral votes in the manner used by Maine and Nebraska, a fine compromise between the current system, which has obvious weaknesses, and a purely popular vote system, which has worse weaknesses that aren’t as obvious.
A lot of other promising changes have been suggested, including a national database of eligible voters and Internet voting, but they require precautions to prevent fraud. This means they aren’t feasible as long as a significant number of people think it should be easier to vote for the leader of the free world than to buy a six-pack of beer or one of those “But wait, there’s more!” infomercial deals.
Oops! Gotta run. My phone is ringing, the caller ID says “unknown,” and I need to make sure we aren’t out of honey.
Mike Deupree of rural Solon, retired, is a former Gazette reporter, editor and columnist. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org