Today is Vote Early Day, a day for boosting awareness of early in-person voting. I’m posting this late at night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t vote early. Many states allow in person voting that includes the two Saturdays before Election Day. Others have expanded mail-in and absentee voting to make early voting easier (I dropped off my mail-in ballot off in person at a municipal drop box).
A friend called me from an early voting line in Virginia on Friday. It wasn’t stress-free. She was one of the last in line that day, and the underpaid (volunteer?) poll workers were ready to go home, hadn’t kept the pens in stock at the voting booths, hadn’t been especially knowledgeable or reassuring. But the important thing is that she voted. I recommend calling a friend if the long line is stressing you out. Calling a friend is always a good idea.
I remember my parents leaving for work early on Election Day, sometimes with me in tow. The lines were not long in my recollection (this was Minneapolis in the 1980s). But the time commitment and the disruption to routine in making a stop at a church or elementary school was and is substantial. For someone expected to clock in at a set time, the anxiety of an errand of uncertain duration is a burden. But voting is not an errand, it is a civic responsibility.
Some cities and states now make it illegal for employers to penalize their staff for the time it takes to vote on Election Day. But this should go without saying. The crime is not voting; the crime is that it was made so difficult for so long. It is criminal that Election Day is not a holiday. We hold it on a Tuesday in November for no reason that matters in 2020. Back in 1845, Tuesday was the most practical for landowners (white, male landowners) to get on their horses and ride to the county seat or town hall to vote. It took all day for many voters to get there, so it made sense to hold the election when there was less work in the fields and on a day when other business in town could be attended to. In addition, weekend travel on the sabbath was widely forbidden. So Tuesday it was. Let’s hope — insist — that the expansion of early voting and mail voting necessitated by the pandemic stick around. After all, few of us are riding all day on horseback to cast our ballots anymore.