More Americans than ever are voting early. NBC News reported that more than 40 million people had already cast ballots before election day, that’s the most ever.
West Virginia is part of the trend. The Secretary of State’s office reported Saturday that 212,000 West Virginians had already cast ballots, and that’s before all the final numbers are in. The previous record was 153,096 from 2008.
The analysts are busy trying to figure out trends in the presidential race based on the early voting, but West Virginia Wesleyan Political Science professor Robert Rupp points out another issue and it has little to do with who wins and who loses; voters just want to get the election over with.
“This means people are so tired and disgusted with this campaign that by running out and voting they are kind of wishing it would end now,” Rupp told me last week. “People that I have talked to who have already voted have said, ‘I’m not listening to anything. I’m just tuning it out.’”
Anecdotally, I’ve had the same experience when I talked with people who voted early. For them, the mind-numbingly long presidential campaign is over. When politics come up in the conversation they say, “I’ve already voted” in a way that suggests they have moved on.
This presidential campaign has gone on for nearly two years, too long for singer and activist Sheryl Crow, who has started a petition drive calling for shorter election cycles. “We cannot sustain another lengthy slugfest like we have witnessed for the past two years and ask both the DNC and RNC to reform the process and shorten our election season.”
Crow, during an appearance on the The Kelly File on Fox News said, “Two years of a campaign do not educate anyone any more than six months.” She’s right about that, and the more we are barraged with the negativity of modern campaigns, the more cynical we become about the process.
Realistically that would be hard to do without violating the First Amendment. Could we practically and legally say to a candidate that he or she cannot begin their campaign until after a certain date?
However, it would help if the campaign season were shortened by consolidating the dates for Primary Elections and moving them closer to the General Election date. The National Association of Secretaries of State in 2000 recommended the Rotating Presidential Primary Plan where the country would be divided into four regions with roughly the same number of electoral votes.
There are lots of plans out there, some better than others, but we should give them serious consideration. Americans feel strongly about elections and most of us want to do our civic duty and be active participants in democracy. But when we’re voting early because we just want to get it over with, something’s definitely wrong with the process.