Americans once gathered on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to pick the nation's leaders. Election Day was a day of civic engagement when neighbors met at the polls and then cast their ballots. In the past twenty-five years, however, America has undergone a revolution in voting unlike anything it has experienced in the first 200 years of its history. We have created a system of many mini-election-days leading up to the main event.
Today nearly a quarter of Americans vote before Election Day, either by absentee ballot or at early voting places. In 1980, only one in twenty voters voted before Election Day. What has happened? Has the convenience of absentee or early voting compromised the integrity of the process and weakened a unifying civic experience?
In Absentee and Early Voting: Trends, Promises, and Perils, John Fortier documents the dramatic increase in absentee voting and, more recently, the meteoric rise in early voting. He examines the legal and historical reasons for changes in the voting system and the many differences across states. Fortier offers his thoughts about what the changes have meant for the country and where we should go from here.
John C. Fortier is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he serves as the principal contributor to the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project.