October 21, 2013

Early voting is under way

The Daily Citizen

— Early voting has been going on for a week today. And it will continue through Friday, Nov. 1, just days before Election Day on Nov. 5.

Granted, early voting may not seem so urgent in this “off-year” election, one that focuses on local elections only. So the lines on Election Day should be short or in some cases nonexistent.

Indeed, there will be short ballots in our area as there are only two contests in Dalton — for a seat on the Board of Education and one on the City Council.

Cohutta will elect two members to its Town Council (the two top vote-getters will be declared the winners from among three candidates). Varnell will elect a new mayor and a new face on its council.

The city of Tunnel Hill and governments in Murray County won’t have to hold elections as candidates are running unopposed; however, there will be some first-time office holders on many boards.

Whether the ballots are short or long, voters should take advantage of early voting. You get to vote when it’s convenient and also when conditions aren’t adverse to getting out.

The folks in New Jersey know the advantage of the latter. Hurricane Sandy, which hit the state just a week before Election Day last year, showed the value of a workable system for early voting.

We hope to find voter apathy isn’t as big a problem as it sometimes appears to be since we let voters cast their ballots a couple of weeks prior to an election, when it’s convenient for them. We believe early voting also will cut down on the potential for fraud through absentee ballots.

And keep in mind that when fewer voters bother to show up in less contested races, one person’s vote can really make a difference. Many local elections have been decided by a dozen votes or less.

But what matters is that more people are finding the time and the opportunity to cast their constitutionally guaranteed vote.

Some states have made moves to limit or shorten early voting, a movement we find discouraging and not in the people’s best interest. Apparently the party in charge of the state legislature figures that early voting hurts its chances, but this is not the case.

Early voting has been popular in North Carolina in the years since it was instituted, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, which reported that in some elections, early voting favored Republicans. In others, namely the 2008 presidential vote, it favored Democrats.

Whether it is merely convenience or fear of long Election Day lines or an eagerness to finally cast your vote, take advantage of early voting. The easier it is to vote, the more people will vote, and that will be good for our democracy.