Early voting ... dilutes the intensity of Election Day. When a large share of votes is cast well in advance of the first Tuesday in November, campaigns begin to scale back their late efforts. The parties run fewer ads and shift workers to more competitive states. Get-out-the-vote efforts in particular become much less efficient when so many people have already voted.Personally, I like the intensity and theater of voting at a polling place. If I had to stop by some office to fill out a form, I might put it off until it's too late or start rationalizing about how it doesn't really matter. (My one vote isn't going to tip the election.) But if a ballot were mailed to me and I could just mail it back, I'm sure I'd do that. (Though in some of these local elections, I'd probably just stare at names I didn't know much about until I finally admitted to myself that I didn't care, even as it would annoy me that straight party voters, who also didn't know much, would be determining the outcome.)
When Election Day is merely the end of a long voting period, it lacks the sort of civic stimulation that used to be provided by local news media coverage and discussion around the water cooler. Fewer co-workers will be sporting “I voted” stickers on their lapels on Election Day. Studies have shown that these informal interactions have a strong effect on turnout, as they generate social pressure. With significant early voting, Election Day can become a kind of afterthought, simply the last day of a drawn-out slog.
Mayer and Burden go on to connect the problem of early voting with same-day registration:
Fortunately, there is a way to improve turnout and keep the convenience of early voting. Our research shows that when early voting is combined with same-day registration — that is, you can register to vote and cast an early ballot on the same day — the depressive effect of early voting disappears.Unfortunately, they say nothing about the possibility that same-day registration pumps up the numbers with fraud.
Accompanying this op-ed is a pen-and-ink illustration by James McShane that's quite nice but that — I'm sure it was unintentional — tricked my eye. It's the panel that shows a letter being mailed. This is also the panel used for the front-page teaser to the op-ed. You look at it first. I'll tell you what I saw later.