No, you didn’t oversleep and wake up on November 6. And no, you didn’t bump your head and somehow forget the last six weeks. Nope, it really is Election Day. Beginning today – September 21 – voters in Virginia and Minnesota (and possibly other states as well – I didn’t check all 50!) can cast their General Election ballots.
That’s right. Before Congress adjourns for the year, before any of the presidential debates – and a full 45 days before first Tuesday after the first Monday in November – General Election ballots can be cast TODAY! As I noted in a post on this page last year, The Economist said back in 2002 that America’s Election Day “might more accurately be called its election deadline.”
Early voting has its supporters and opponents – supporters say it encourages greater participation, while opponents counter that it leads to ignorant voting. Either way, it’s apparently here to stay, and those voting early have a significant impact on the final outcome.
The New York Times says that the 95 Electoral College votes from eight states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin – hold the key to victory for President Obama or Gov. Romney this fall. And according to data compiled by George Mason University’s Michael McDonald, in 2008 those states cast more than 10 million early ballots, ranging from 78.9 percent of the total votes cast in Colorado and 66.9 percent in Nevada to 13.5 percent in Virginia and 10 percent in New Hampshire.
Election results have often been referred to as a snapshot of the electorate. That was an accurate assessment when most everyone voted on a single day. But, since this “snapshot” will take 45 days to develop, perhaps the results might be better described as a painting. Again, as I noted last year, author John Kouwenhoven said, “No painting can tell the truth of a single instant; no snapshot can do anything else.”
Beginning today, each of us has the opportunity to add our own brushstoke to the final painting that will be unveiled on the evening of November 6. Paraphrasing Kouwenhoven, the truth told by those results will be left to interpretation.
Don’t forget to vote!