First and foremost, I want to thank state Sen. Janice Bowling for her efforts to address election integrity. Our system of democracy cannot function properly if Americans think our elections are rigged.
For proof, look no further than last month. People showed they will storm the U.S. Capitol and overpower police if they believe their vote doesn’t count. This can be viewed as both a promising sign and a very scary one.
Sen. Bowling wants to restore faith in our elections and I believe that’s a wonderful idea. Our elections, in every county and every state, need a top-to-bottom evaluation to ensure they are on the level.
Regardless of whether I like a candidate, or dislike a candidate, I want the person who rightfully won to be elected to office. At minimum, our elections should be fair and they should be honest. In a world overflowing with corruption, I realize this may be much to ask.
So I want to applaud Sen. Bowling for her efforts to implement positive change with her Senate bill filed last Friday. However, I don’t agree with most major aspects of her thinking.
My main disagreement is with the idea of ending early voting, which offers great convenience to Tennessee residents over a 15-day period.
Holding an election on one day – and one day only – is a very rigid concept. What if you’re out of town? What if you’re sick? What if something unforeseen comes up and you can’t make it to your precinct during a 12-hour window?
Early voting addresses all of those problems by providing ample time to get to the polls. Under Tennessee’s current early voting system, absolutely nobody can claim they didn’t have time to vote.
If the General Assembly votes to abolish early voting, Tennesseans will be left with one option – vote on Election Day. For Warren County, that’s bad news for 10,619 voters, or 62.5% of our voting population, who took advantage of early voting during the most recent presidential election in November.
Many of these voters may be able to vote on Election Day without a problem. But it’s fair to say there would certainly be a chunk of early voters who don’t make it to vote on Election Day, for whatever reason.
My immediate fear is long lines on Election Day would be a deterrent. If someone pulls up to their voting precinct and sees a line extending into the parking lot, there’s a chance they keep driving. This could certainly be the case in large cities where lines could overwhelm precincts and definitely lead to people forgoing the process.
The last thing we need is more roadblocks to keep registered voters from the polls. It’s a constant battle just to get residents to register to vote. Then it’s another hurdle to get them to sacrifice 10 minutes of their day to go to the polls.
We do not need smothering Election Day lines. I think it would be a very bad idea to get rid of early voting.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.