Want to vote early in Michigan? What's your excuse?

Oct 2, 2012

The presidential election is still a month away, but in many states, early voting is already underway.

Today, Ohio opened the polls to early voters.

It’s one of 34 states that have some kind of early voting system.

Michigan, however, is not one of those states.

Last week, I went to my local city hall. I was feeling good. It was my daughter’s 18th birthday. I helped her register to vote - civic pride for a dad.

After that, my mood darkened.

I applied for an absentee ballot and on the application, I had to check off a little box that says I will be out of the area on election day.

It’s true.

I work pretty far from where I live and vote.

On November 6, I’ll leave the house at 7 a.m., and I’ll get back home around 10:30 at night, so there’s a good chance everything could be over by the time I’ve returned to my driveway.

Now to be clear, getting the absentee ballot isn’t the problem. It’s easy.

What gets me is I have to give a reason.

Michigan is one of a minority of states that still requires a reason for wanting an absentee ballot.

Michigan is one of a minority of states that still requires a reason for wanting an absentee ballot.

To me, that represents a mentality which creates disincentives to voting. It should more accessible.

In my view, not having early voting is anti-democratic and not unlike the push for voter ID laws, because in our state and country, we really don’t have a problem with voter fraud.

We have a huge problem with voter participation.

In the 2008 presidential election, we had one of our highest turnouts in a while, but that was still only about 57%, well below what other western countries get, many which give their citizens a national holiday for voting.

What do we do?

We take about two years to elect a president.

...in our state and country, we really don't have a problem with voter fraud. We have a huge problem with voter participation.

We have a warm-up year which clogs the process.

Then we have about 20 early debates followed by primaries, conventions, final debates, and then Election Day.

So, after all that, we’re hoping to have a healthy democracy by expecting people to get to the polls in just one day?

I teach college students and when I ask them if they’re voting, they tell me - a lot depends on their schedule.

And think about folks who don’t drive, the elderly, people who just don’t want to wait in line, or don’t want to go out if the weather’s bad.

Look, most of America is wising up to the fact that… that’s nuts!

Our election process may be way too long, but even if it was far shorter, we’re surely going to devote time in our national conversation about who should become the leader of the free world.

So we should also devote a reasonable chunk of time to cast a ballot.

The good news is nationally, early voting is on the rise, and may well represent a third of all ballots cast this election cycle.

But in Michigan, we haven’t joined the revolution, and when we want more flexibility, we still have to give an excuse.