Like most states, South Carolina has a “Get Out the Vote!” campaign each election. We can do better by not just talking about that but actually doing something about it. One disincentive to voting is holding elections on a work and school day, but there is only so much one state can do about Tuesday elections. Fixing that would require action on the federal level. There is another action, though, that we can and should do at the state level: enabling routine Early Voting.
Out of our 50 states, only South Carolina and twelve others totally lack routine Early Voting and also require an excuse for absentee voting. All the others allow their citizens to vote during times leading up to Election Day, with no excuse needed beyond convenience to the voter. The Brennan Center for Justice puts it this way. “As Americans’ lives become more complex – for many each day is a struggle to balance the needs of work and family – confining voting to a single 8- or 12-hour period is simply not reflective of how most voters live. Additionally, having polls open for such a short time can lead to numerous problems, including long lines, as poll workers – who perform the job infrequently at best – struggle to cope with hordes of voters.”
There would be benefits if South Carolina were to ease early voting as three-fourths of the other states have done. Again according to the Brennan Center, such a change would reduce stress on the voting system on Election Day, ensuring lines are shorter that day than they are now. It would improve poll worker performance. It would reduce last-minute identification and attempted correction of registration errors and voting system glitches. And, most importantly, it would enable greater access to voting and increased voter satisfaction.
I use voting as an example when I teach my Elementary Statistics students about sampling techniques. The purpose of taking a sample or a poll is to learn something about the entire population. For voting, the desired knowledge is to find out as accurately as possible the preference of the electorate regarding who are to represent them in the City and County Council, as the President of the United States, and in every level between the two. Mathematics is at work here: the larger the sample and the greater the ease of finding and polling a truly representative one, the more likely it is that the sample’s preference reflects that of the entire population.
Honoring the preference of the entire electorate is the essence of truly representative democracy. We in South Carolina have the legal ability to make this change, and, in the process, to improve our democracy. Our Edgefield County legislative delegation should support action to enable and to ease routine “no excuse needed” Early Voting.