President Obama chalked up another first today when he became the first sitting President to cast his vote "early." He stopped by his local precinct polling place in Chicago, exchanged some banter with the poll workers (one of whom asked to see his I.D.), marked his ballot, and turned it in. The President said, somewhat coyly, that he couldn't state who he voted for because it was a secret ballot, but that Michelle had told him that she voted for him.
So the ballots of Barack and Michelle are in the bag - and so is mine. I can't remember the last time that I actually voted at an official voting place on election day, but it was probably 2004 in my hometown in Missouri. Two months later I was living in Leavenworth, Kansas, and working for the military. Since that time I have never missed voting in an election, and, with one exception (Kentucky, I'm looking at you), my votes were always cast through the mail.
I like being able to sit down at my work table and take time in marking my ballot. If I have questions about a candidate or an issue, I go on the Internet and look for information - then I am able to cast votes that accurately reflect my beliefs and philosophy. The other thing that drives me to vote early is this notion that I might expire just days or even hours before the dawn of voting day. I take a perverse pleasure in knowing that if I am gunned down by some moronic Phoenix tea-bagger a few days before the election, my voice will still be heard in the election.
Also, it's nice to be able to tell those odious campaign telephoners and door-knockers that I have already voted - as I hang up the phone or close the door.
American voting has changed substantially over the past decade. It used to be that we had two choices: request an absentee ballot or show up at the polls on election day. Sometimes the lines were long and the weather was bad - or illness interfered. Now many states allow early voting, either at specified polling places or by mail. Some states are even letting people register to vote on the Internet - and, unbelievably Arizona is one of those! I feel safe in predicting that within another decade much of America will be voting on their smart phones.
Smart phones won't necessarily produce smart voters, but they do provide an immediate way to research any issue or candidate - and informed voters will be good voters, whether they agree with me or not!