Not everything you want, is a solution to every problem

In Wednesday’s print edition of the Hartford Courant, one in a series of editorials setting an agenda for the State, Agenda Toward A More Open Government,<read>. There is much to like and agree with in the editorial: Stronger investigative subpoena for state prosecutors; closing the cash spigot for campaign finance; and strengthening the watchdog agencies.

While we are skeptical of the benefits of open primaries, their potential, and ultimately the value of “more moderate nominees”, we are particularly in disagreement with one section, Do-Over for Early Voting:

It’s a shame that voters turned down a ballot question that would have removed rigid language in the state constitution that restricts voting to just one day and the voter to one polling place. Lawmakers should put the question on the ballot again.

The measure would have permitted the General Assembly to authorize early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and voting by mail — reforms that make voting more convenient for busy people and increase turnout.

Thirty-four states have early voting, which means the polls are open longer hours or for days before Election Day. Any of these reforms would have been an antidote to the kind of official incompetence that shortened voting hours in Hartford on Nov. 4.

As we have covered in several posts before the election, <here here here here> we have several concerns with no-excuse absentee/mail-in voting.  While we support in-person early voting, we doubt that the Connecticut Legislature is ready to pay for the expenses and call for the reorganization necessary to support in-person early voting.

With regards to this specific editorial, we point out that:

We do not get a link between the problems in Hartford in 2014 and an obvious cure in early voting or no-excuse absentee/mail-in voting.  One view is that absentee check-off and list printing was too much work to get done in time for election day opening – increasing early voting would only add to that.  Another view is that it was some combination of incompetence and arrogance that caused the problems – more early voting would not solve such problems.

Its been said that when you only have a hammer, you see that as a cure to every problem.

In the past it was argued that the problems of Hurricane Sandy would have been solved by early voting – that also is hard to understand unless voters appropriately predict a storm and voted early, while officials were able to expand early voting to cover an unanticipated volume.  Or conversely the storm hit during early voting and the post-office managed to still get the votes in, while officials were able to increase capacity on election day to make up for unexpected lower early voting.

Also early voting in none of its forms increases turnout, in actually DECREASES turnout. Once again, we have covered this in several posts over the years <e.g. here>.  As we pointed out last time, the Courant does not listen to computer science and security professionals when it comes to connecting our voting machines to the Internet. Here they should be listening to political scientists who show that early voting decreases turnout.


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