SILVER SPRING, Md. — Maryland’s primary elections was slated for Sept. 14. Although early voting was available for the first time this year, far fewer voters than predicted cast their ballots in advance of official election day. According to the Baltimore Sun, 2.5 percent of registered voters, 8 percent of those expected to vote in the primary, voted early.
Early voting was available Sept. 3 to Sept. 9. When early voting was approved last year when voters by referendum decided to join 30 other states offering early voting, Maryland officials predicted 20 percent of voters would jump on the opportunity to vote early. Montgomery County’s early voting isn’t appealing to me, and apparently not to any vast number of Maryland voters. With the cost of early voting $3.4 million, according to the Baltimore Sun, an evaluation of the desirability of continuing early voting in future elections seems appropriate. Is it really worth spending $3.4 million so 77,000 Marylanders can get a jumpstart on voting? I would vote no.
Early voting takes away the excitement of going to the polls on election day. Sure it may help cut back on long lines in an election with heavy turnout, but there is something inspiring about gathering amidst neighbors to cast a ballot, then returning home to await results. Rolling voting takes away that excitement.
By voting six days in advance of election day, a voter runs the risk of voting without the benefit of influential, last-minute information that might have changed his choice. Campaigns plan carefully for last minute info blitzes, known in the advertising world as accelerated finish. They are mainly aimed at undecided voters but may in some circumstances cause decided voters to change course. While definitive last minute information that would change an already decided voter’s mind may not realistically occur with every or even most elections, there’s no way of knowing when it will be a factor.
Election day is a big occasion for Parent Teacher Association bake sales. Diverting voters to other locales to vote early may mean less successful fundraising to the detriment of school students. A small consideration, perhaps, but a consideration nonetheless.
Finally, voting early means voting somewhere other than my usual polling place. I could go out of my way to vote early or I could vote right across the street from my house on election day. Increasing travel distance and associated pollution cost seems minor when examined on an individual voter basis but is much more substantial when multiplied by the 77,000 Marylanders who chose to vote early.
None of these reasons makes me a strong opponent of early voting but they all point me in the direction of sticking to election day for casting my ballot. Since the vast majority of Maryland voters have likewise declined to go to the polls in advance of election day, it seems wasteful for Maryland to commit millions of taxpayer dollars to opening alternate early polling places for the relative few who choose to use them.