Early voting in Virginia’s off-off-year race for governor has been underway for nearly three weeks already, having begun on Sept. 17, fully 47 days before the official Nov. 2 Election Day.
Also on the ballot are races for lieutenant governor and state attorney general, as well as all 100 seats in the House of Delegates of the General Assembly and a variety of local offices.
Early voting still is a relatively new phenomenon, not just in Virginia but across the country. It was not all that long ago when Election Day meant precisely that—Election Day. Either you voted that day—ordinarily, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November—or you didn’t vote at all. The only exception back then was absentee balloting, which you had to arrange in advance if you knew that you would be out of town or otherwise indisposed on Election Day.
In other words, there was no early voting as we know it today, yet the republic survived quite nicely. Voters knew when primary and general elections were to be held and planned their schedules accordingly if they cared strongly enough to vote.
While there’s some merit to having voting extend over more than just a single day to avoid long lines at the polls, Virginia’s more than six weeks’ worth, ending Oct. 30, is unnecessarily long.
We’re open to more than just a single day, but if a would-be voter can’t manage their time to make a trip to the polls over the course of, say, four or five days of early voting or on Election Day itself, a time-management course might be in order.
There are at least three reasons to curtail the number of early voting days.
First, the longer the polls are open, the greater the opportunities for cheating by the unscrupulous. The potential for election integrity to be compromised is directly proportional to the duration of early voting.
The second is the substantial cost of operating the early-voting stations throughout the state that have to be staffed for more than six weeks. In addition to the general registrar’s offices in each of Virginia’s jurisdictions, there are at least 60 satellite polling stations across the state, according to the Virginia Department of Elections website. In Fairfax County alone, there are 16 such satellite stations open seven to eight hours a day.
A potential third problem with unnecessarily lengthy early voting is the electoral “October surprise.” What if you cast your vote on Sept. 30, and a month later, on Oct. 30, a scandal surfaces involving the candidate you voted for—for example, a report of financial improprieties or a sexual assault charge?
More specifically, as it relates to the Virginia governor’s race, how many early voters, for example, might now regret casting their ballots for Democrat Terry McAuliffe after he made this appallingly arrogant remark on education policy during a Sept. 28 candidates’ debate: “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions,” adding: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Too bad. You can change your mind, but you can’t change your vote.
For all these reasons, Virginia should roll back the length of early voting to a more reasonable number of days. Our inclination would be no more than a week—whether Attorney General Merrick Garland’s far-left Justice Department and self-appointed liberal voting rights groups like the Brennan Center like it or not.