More than 38 million ballots were cast before Election Day arrived this year, shattering the midterm election record for early voting. That was nearly double the level of early voting in the last midterm election, in 2014, when 21 million voted early.
Yet few genuinely benefit from this early voting fad, except political machines and the better-funded candidates. That means early voting boosts the Democrats, who held an enormous fundraising advantage this year along with their political machine that has long dominated Chicago and other big cities.
In the traditionally red states of Texas and Florida, early voting causes many races there to be decided prior to Election Day. Both states now have extensive early voting, and as a result both were targeted by massive cash for Democrats this election cycle.
The influx of tens of millions of dollars by liberals to fund Beto O’Rourke in his campaign for U.S. Senate in Texas baffled some, but not those familiar with the circus of extended early voting that is allowed in the Lone Star State. By herding traditionally Democratic constituents to the polls during the two-week period of early voting, well-funded Democrats in Texas have the hope of winning elections they would otherwise lose in that conservative state.
In Texas, early voting increased everywhere, but particularly skyrocketed in heavily Democratic areas such as Austin and Dallas. Casualties could include down-ballot Republicans, including state legislators and local officials.
Similarly, in the other large red state of Florida, more than 5 million votes were cast early this fall. That was 38.4% of the entire Florida electorate, and more than the number that voted on Election Day.
Smart liberal money flowed in a big way against Republican candidates in both States, attracted by the opportunity to herd people to vote early and tip the outcome. The candidate who raises the most money is more likely to win in elections decided by expensive early voting efforts.
The voting this past Sunday morning in Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest county, tells the story. A record 40,000 ballots were cast, many bused from churches as part of the Democrats’ “souls to the polls” campaign.
That Sunday burst in voting gave the Democrats in Florida the lead in overall ballots cast early. Meanwhile independent voters, on whom Republicans often rely to get elected, are shut out of the early voting gamesmanship and thereby become less significant, particularly in non-presidential elections.
Last year Hans von Spakovsky released a report for the Heritage Foundation in which he concluded that early voting can increase the cost of campaigns, and actually decrease overall turnout. For example, early voting removes the social pressure to vote on Election Day.
Add to that how early voting has become the new form of machine-style politics that distorts the election process and changes results. The integrity and excitement of Election Day are undermined by the enormous spending to push people to vote early.
The average American in Florida, Texas, and other early voting states would be fine in getting their lives back, without the tiresome robocalls and other efforts to urge them to vote early. The vast majority of early voters would otherwise vote on Election Day, and having both sides spend millions to move those ballots a week or so early is wasteful.
There was no line to vote at many election polling precincts on Tuesday, which detracts from the experience and could result in fewer people voting next time. Early voting undermines the patriotic value of a unified Election Day.
The early voters had less information, including major economic data not released until last Friday. In some states, such as Montana, the libertarian candidate for Senate pulled out of the race and endorsed the Republican candidate after many votes had already been cast early.
In California, its mail-in balloting means that election outcomes can remain uncertain until long after Election Day, when ballots are finally received by election officials. It becomes impossible to check against voter fraud, and there is no place for precinct monitors.
Nevada is a state where elections are decided by early voting, and it has a tight Senate race for a seat held by a Republican. Yet ballots had already been cast by 40% of active voters there prior to Election Day, and Democrats defeated Republicans by a 41-38% margin in early ballots.
Republicans have controlled the Florida and Texas statehouse and governorship for years, so it is baffling why they allow pervasive early voting there, including Sunday voting in Florida which Democrats exploited. Other Republican states, such as Ohio and North Carolina, have sensibly tried to rein in rampant early voting.
There is a constitutional right to vote. But there is no constitutional right to vote early, and it is time to restore integrity and significance to Election Day by reining in early voting.
John and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016) and lead the continuing Phyllis Schlafly Eagles organizations with writing and policy work.