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Columnists

The Perils of Early Voting and a Solution that Works

Although Election Day isn’t until November 8, some states already began mailing ballots to those who requested them, and it’s only September! As the Wall Street Journal aptly observed, a person could vote for a candidate who, between then and Election Day becomes embroiled in an awful scandal or incapacitated physically or mentally. By then, the vote is cast. If that candidate’s party selects an alternate, too late, the vote counts for the previous candidate who’s no longer on the ballot. There are no do-overs.

Add that to the myriad of reasons why remote voting is highly problematic (NOTE: early in-person voting is fine; let the voter who votes too early beware).

In examining the pros and cons of remote voting, keep in mind that many advocates won’t reveal their true motives. Let’s face it, we all know that nowadays remote voting favors Democrats. Consequently, many Democrats will support it and many Republicans will oppose it precisely for that reason. They’re adhering to former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis’ “just win, baby” mantra.

But for those who truly want a fair voting system, regardless of whether the results will jibe with our candidates and parties of choice, the debate boils down to two main concerns: accessibility and accuracy.

On the one hand, remote voting proponents deem in-person-only voting as disadvantaging the immobile and inner-city voters who can’t afford to leave work to vote, or have to stand in line for two or three hours because of crowd size.

On the other hand, those opposed to remote voting refer to unguarded dropoff boxes, ballot harvesting, lax postmark deadlines, and the oft-used line: “if I wouldn’t send cash through the mail, why would I send my vote?”

Here’s the solution: voting by proxy. Here are the broad strokes, which can be refined:

  1. Any duly registered voter may enter into a formal agreement with any other duly registered voter whereby the latter will become the former’s proxy and able to vote in person on behalf of the former.
  2. There will be a strong, sophisticated system in place to ensure no double voting, just as now a person can’t vote twice (once in person and once by mail).
  3. For the sake of integrity each voter may appoint only one proxy, and each proxy shall serve only one voter. In other words, an employee at a retirement community cannot serve as proxy to, say, 50 seniors.
  4. The process of completing the proxy agreement, and the document confirming it, shall be as thorough and secure as obtaining a U.S. passport.
  5. Either the voter or the proxy may terminate the agreement at any time through a similar thorough and secure process.
  6. Voters will be encouraged to select proxies proactively, so that they may be used one, two, or even 20 years down the road.
  7. American citizens living abroad, as well as American troops deployed throughout the world, may also use the proxy system, though secure voting locations may be set up at military bases and U.S. embassies or consulates.

This change in how we vote surely presents some disadvantages, including some we haven’t yet conceptualized.

There’s the American living abroad whose proxy has been hospitalized the day before the election and consequently will not be able to vote.

There’s the American soldier deployed overseas who suddenly changed political parties, motivating his proxy to pretend to be too sick to vote on the soldier’s behalf, so as not to help elect a particular candidate.

Nonetheless, proxy voting should satisfy those who sincerely want to ensure accessibility without compromising accuracy.
Here’s the America I envision with proxy voting in place:

  1. All voting takes place on Election Day. If more polling places need to be opened to accommodate large turnouts and long lines, then so be it.
  2. Speeches, debates, scandals, and other news items will matter up until that day, significantly minimizing voter’s remorse.
  3. There will be no issues with unguarded dropoff boxes.
  4. As there will be no electioneering at polling places, there won’t be much concern about ballot harvesting.
  5. There won’t be criticism of lax postmark dates or ballots being lost in the mail, because there won’t be any mail-in voting.
  6. Voting in general will matter again, as in-person voting better connects the voter to the solemnity of the occasion.
  7. Those currently physically unable to appear to vote in person for whatever reason will no longer be categorically disadvantaged.

Those who believe that remote voting currently favors Democrats will see this plan as an opportunity for Republicans to gain an edge. However, if executed properly, it won’t be. After all, it’s not as if Democrats as a whole simply don’t vote in person. Plenty of them will sign up as proxies. And don’t forget, there are a lot of seniors, soldiers, and sailors who vote Republican.
The big picture is that Americans, regardless of party, don’t trust the way elections are run nowadays. The 2020 Trump-supporting “election deniers” are fresh on our minds, but many forget about the 2016 Democrats – from Hillary Clinton to various members of Congress, to former presidents – who declared that election, and its winner, “illegitimate.”

Anyone who’s followed American history even casually knows that we are not a one-party nation, and any hope of your party ruling in perpetuity is a pipe dream.

Accordingly, the best thing we can do as good citizens is restore the trust in our elections, thereby increasing voter participation organically rather than with “the future of democracy depends on this election!” histrionics – and may the best man or woman win.

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