Twitter erupted into a five-alarm dumpster fire, once again, in a flurry of debate this week over the issue of early voting.
Said dumpster fire was precipitated by the victory of Greg Gianforte in Montana’s special House election. Gianforte, the Republican victor for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s former seat, was the predicted favorite in deep-red Montana … right up until he allegedly threw reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground in a fit of rage.
Doing this on the eve of an election would normally kill any chance at a congressional seat. But it didn’t here, likely in part because Montana has weeks of early voting and a substantial number of the ballots in the race were already cast. This gave Gianforte a cushy pre-scandal buffer of support over Democrat Rob Quist, with controversial early voting working out in the Republican’s favor in this case — a rarity.
The event only sparks validation and schadenfreude for early voting’s opponents, who argue that it’s a stupid idea because it locks in votes before the contest is truly over.
This, this story, is one of the reasons many of us have long opposed early voting. You are making a decision w/incompete information.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) May 25, 2017
Jokes aside, if this #MTAL race doesn’t get Democrats to reconsider their stance on early voting, then nothing ever will.
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) May 26, 2017
Can we agree early voting is stupid?
— Karol Markowicz (@karol) May 26, 2017
And there even appeared to be a glimmer of agreement, at least in this instance, from those who thought that the race shouldn’t have turned out this way.
@morelaugh Damn that's nuts. Might stop people from early voting.
— Travon Free (@Travon) May 26, 2017
— ??Tara Dublin ?? (@taradublinrocks) May 26, 2017
@WHoltzman MT has early voting and unfortunately most of the votes reportedly were in already.
— Stefanie Gordon (@Stefmara) May 26, 2017
So, in short:
The same people you see complaining about early voting in Montana are the same people who praised it in other states in November
— Kyle Buis (@kylebuis) May 25, 2017
If one remembers, the shoe was on the other foot last November, as the last-minute scandal shield created by early voting was a factor that favored Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid.
However, several of the practice’s supporters – who typically argue for allowing people to vote early on the basis of time or transportation/access arguments – were still unwilling to give up on it.
Now there are two prevailing arguments contra-contra early voting …
Removal of early voting must be supplemented with same-day registration as an alternative.
That the argument is bunk because the same scandal could happen the day after the election, instead of the day before it.
The first is unrelated to the problems created by an early-voting situation. In the eyes of people who only see this as an access issue, it may be a consistent argument, but it doesn’t speak to the concerns that others have about ballot security.
It’s interesting how many people who are concerned about Russian interference in the 2016 election don’t seem to have a problem with lowering ballot security in other areas. But I digress ... Perhaps detractors should pose their fraud hypotheticals in terms of Russian agents, in order to make them stick.
There is no perfect system. Those of us not beguiled with the illusion that anything in this world can be perfected by human means included “government” in that category a long time ago. This isn’t about perfecting a system — it’s about not doing anything to make it worse. And early voting is something that makes it worse.
Should a scandal erupt post-election, as many do, we have this radical thing where we have the option to vote people out of office on a regular basis, or to impeach them if something they do is bad enough. Constitutions can be nifty things — ours especially. There’s all sorts of useful stuff to limit the power of politicians, and it’s not even that hard to look for.
The electoral process is not perfect. It never will be. We have to deal with that. Early voting, regardless of whom it benefits, is just a bad idea that makes the process worse.