Editorial: No early voting in PA, but absentee voting is here

November 10, 2018

Election Day is still almost two weeks away but while Pennsylvanians are drowning in political ads, there is one aspect of the annual process that isn’t hitting them yet.

The actual ballot casting.

It might seem strange to watch national news and see the issues rising already in some other states. Long lines. Allegations of racism. Political clashes.

So why is this happening when the first Tuesday in November isn’t even here yet?

Other states have expanded voting opportunities with the goal of increasing voter turnout. Pennsylvania is one of just eight states with no early voting. Eight more, including neighboring Delaware, New York and Virginia, don’t specifically have early voting but will allow an in-person vote with an absentee ballot if you have a valid excuse.

It must work, right? With all the uproar around access to early voting and transportation to early voting and making sure that people are participating in early voting, Pennsylvania must be missing out on something huge.

Except maybe not.

Pew Research Center has previously found that, in and of itself, early voting actually depresses the vote more than invigorates it.

That’s not always true. Texas, the site of a huge marquee race between Sen. Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, is having an early voting boom, according to USA Today.

But a big early turnout doesn’t say what the final numbers will be, and research shows there is something to be said for having voting be a big deal, one-day affair.

Think of it like a deadline. A homework assignment or a big project for work is the kind of thing that you might plan to do ahead of time, but this leads to that and other things get in the way and before you know it, what you meant to get done early became something you didn’t do at all.

Making voting easy, rather than just early, does seem to have an impact. A Washington Post story this week pointed to numbers that put Pennsylvania at the middle of the pack as far as ease versus turnout. Other states have seen higher turnout with policies like voting by mail and Election Day registration.

Neither of those appear to be coming soon to the Keystone State.

What is just around the corner, however, is the closest thing Pennsylvania has to early voting: absentee ballots.

On Tuesday, the Allegheny County Elections Division urged voters to request absentee ballots as soon as possible to make sure they could be received, filled out and returned in time for the 5 p.m. Nov. 2 deadline. Absentee information is available from the state at www.votespa.com.

Pennsylvania doesn’t demand that voters justify their absence the way they would to get out of jury duty. Just print the form, fill it out, send it in or bring it in person.

Easy voting is better than early voting. But no matter when you vote or how, just vote.

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