Earlier this week, law professors Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis contributed a piece to Politico Magazine making The Case Against Early Voting. … This piece isn’t unique; indeed, the proposal to expand early voting seems to have struck more of a nerve than the endorsement of online voter registration. But this piece is especially curious because it seems to focus on one criticism of early voting that was more prevalent years ago – namely, the loss of the experience of a single day of voting. … This argument, which was popular a decade ago, is undercut by research by Paul Gronke and othersshowing that early voters are not only more partisan but less undecided, meaning that they have no interest in “taking in the full back and forth of the campaign.” It also flies in the face of voters, well, voting with their feet by choosing to cast ballots outside of the traditional polling place. There are, to be sure, evidence-based arguments that early voting isn’t the turnout machine it’s often sold to be – indeed, Barry Burden and three colleagues have a provocative new paper that suggests that early voting actually DECREASES turnout in the absence of opportunities for same-day registration. There is also a growing realization of the need to do cost-benefit analyses of lengthy voting periods and identify the best time to open the process when significant numbers of voters are ready to take advantage of early voting.
But the argument that early voting deprives voters of an opportunity to cast ballots in a simultaneous expression of public opinion “at a particular moment” is rather outdated given the current state of the field. That sense is amplified by the authors’ recommendations for fixing the problem via “old-fashioned absentee ballots or setting up more polling places” – options which are unattractive or unavailable to many election officials.
The release of the PCEA report is an opportunity for new voices to join the discussion about how to improve American elections. But this piece is so out of step with current research and realities on early voting that it adds little, if anything, to the field.