COLUMN — Election Day should become election month
America will not walk away from this era of the pandemic without significant bruises and scars both physically and emotionally, but there are rare occasions where the lessons learned from this time of trial will be beneficial in the future.
One of the lessons learned that will certainly stick around is that early voting and mail-in voting works and expands participation in our democracy.
Just take a look at the results in Prince Edward County where a total of 4,641 people went to the polls on Election Day and a total of 4,930 voted through either early in-person voting or by absentee ballot.
Almost 160 million ballots were cast in the 2020 election nationwide. That’s the highest ever and the highest voter participation rate among eligible citizens since 1900. That’s before women were given the right to vote.
The more convenient we can make voting, the more people will be able to take part. The new voting initiatives passed by the Virginia General Assembly should not be a one-time deal due to the pandemic but should become the way we vote in the future.
At some point, we will be choosing our candidates on an app on our phones. But until we make it that simple, the combination of early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee voting will be a huge improvement over standing in line on Election Day in unpredictable weather.
These improvements in Virginia have put us in charge of our vote. We can plan it. We can track it. We can vote when and how it is convenient for us to do so.
The infrastructure surrounding the counting process will catch up. Registrars must be allowed to count ballots as they come in instead of waiting until the night of or a day later to begin tabulating the vote.
Early voting also takes a lot of pressure off poll workers on Election Day. Prince Edward poll workers dealt with less than half the voters Tuesday than they processed in 2016.
Candidates will have to adjust as well. Any political advertising ran the last weekend of the election missed half the voters. They had already gotten the “I Voted” stickers while Webb and Good were ping-ponging ads back and forth on local television stations.
This pandemic has been a horrible experience, but in 2028 when an 18-year-old logs into the U.S. voting app to cast a ballot for the first time, we can regale them with stories of how we stood in a line a mile long during a pouring rain and driving snowstorm to vote for our favorite candidate.
They will think we were so dumb.
ROGER WATSON is editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC.. His email address is Roger.Watson@FarmvilleHerald.com.
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