You might have missed it, but voting has already begun. No, I’m not referring to the South Carolina primary; I’m referring to the Texas primary … scheduled for March 1. You heard that right. Voting for the March 1 primary has begun two weeks early, even before the South Carolina primary. Other Super Tuesday primary states, such as Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas, have early voting as well.
Art. II §1 cl. 4 of the Constitution states: “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”
In 1845, Congress designated that day as “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.” For some states to allow voting on multiple days prior to the one set by Congress and have more than half their votes cast before Election Day is incontrovertibly unconstitutional.
Common sense also dictates that we should have a single national election day. The notion that, over the course of a volatile campaign, different people would vote at different times is absurd because there are so many events that could alter the public perception about a candidate. It makes sense that everyone should observe the same campaign for the same duration and render their verdict on a uniform set of information when the entire campaign is completed.
That some states hold voting open for an entire month before the general election in November is clearly against the spirit of the Constitution and the foundation of democratic elections. There is already a remedy for those who can’t show up at the polls on the designated Election Day — the absentee ballot. Now we have an entire month of early voting in some states, the turnout of which often influences the outcome of the legitimate Election Day.
Obviously, the Constitution is silent on the question of primaries because that is a party election, not a constitutionally mandated election. Political parties, in cooperation with the states, can do what they please. And clearly, primaries were designed to be staggered over the period of a few months to allow new candidates to slowly gain traction. But the notion that individual voters within the same state would vote at different times definitely violates the same spirit of free democratic elections.
In some ways early voting during the primaries is even worse than during the general election. For the most part, people voting in the same primary share similar values and priorities but are unsure as to which candidate best represents those values. This is why primaries are so volatile. We see candidates rise and tumble within a few days based on one statement, revelation, or debate performance. Who knows which candidates will be seriously competing by March 1? Who knows what will be revealed about any number of candidates. It’s simply absurd to begin voting two weeks ahead of time during a presidential primary with such a large field.
The bottom line is that we already have enough low-information voters casting ballots that will affect the future of the republic. There is no need for a protracted “election month” just for the purposes of boosting turnout. Anyone who is incapable of voting in person on Election Day or casting an absentee ballot shouldn’t participate in the process anyway.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.