With early voting is the US ready for uniform poll closing?

Not sure if this should go in IMHO or GD, so mods, feel free to move it.

One of the complaints we hear every four years from the western US is that while residents were still standing in line to vote, the election was already over, since the returns from the eastern and central states had made the outcome clear, and in many cases even “called” by the networks.

This has been a problem in the past, since the country spans 5 time zones and everyone had to vote on the same day. Now most, if not all, of the states have implemented some form of early voting, so that you can cast your ballot weeks in advance of the actual “election day.” With early voting in place, the argument that you can’t vote if the polls close early doesn’t hold water anymore.

If all states would agree to close the polls on election day at the same time (for example 8 pm eastern time, which would be 5 pm on the west coast and 3 pm in Hawaii), I see several benefits.

[li]No one could complain that their vote didn’t matter due to closing times.[/li][li]No more waiting till the wee hours of the morning for nationwide election results[/li][li]Hi, Opal (sorry, couldn’t resist).[/li][/ol]

In fact, I’m having a hard time seeing a down side, other than it might upset some traditionalists.

Dopers, what think ye?

Closing the polls early on the West Coast and Hawaii would make it impossible for huge numbers of people to vote on Election Day. That means they’d all have to vote early, in the small number of places where they are able to do so. That could entail a huge travel burden just to be able to vote.

Obviously, they can’t run early voting in every polling place, because then you’d have to shut down half the nations schools, town halls, and bowling alleys for two weeks.

I don’t know how early voting works in every state, but in Utah they seem to have a pretty good system. In each county there are a number of places where early voting can take place, usually town halls, county offices, etc.

You can go to any of those places regardless of where you are registered, and after they verify your information you get a voter access card (similar to a credit card) that you insert into the voting machine, which then knows what voting district you are in and presents the appropriate ballot.

I don’t think anyone could say that during a 2-3 week period they couldn’t get away for an hour or two to vote, especially if they stayed open until 7 or 8 in the evening on some days.

After posting this, and thinking about it a little more, one obvious drawback would be the additional cost of early voting, for those areas that aren’t already doing it.

I guess my proposal was based on the assumption that early voting will be in use in most places by the next election anyway.

There were no wee hours of the morning.

Election was called at 8. I saw the concession and the acceptance speech and then was part of an impromptu multi hour street gathering and was home before midnight. Timing worked great for me.

Anyway, the current system makes it easier for people across the country to vote. Your proposal makes it easier for people in a certain part of the country (not the west coast. We’d still be at work) to watch returns. One of those activities is more important than the other.

I do see the time-zone, poll open times as a problem. I am disappointed to see that Proposition 8 (same sex marriage repeal) was approved. I heard that one possible factor why this measure passed is because Obama had such huge margins early on - Obama (and likely Prop. 8 “no”) voters opted not to vote because their candidate was already going to win.

I can also see that trying to align the voting times between west coast and east coast will make it less convenient for everyone to vote. And thus may impact how many people get out and vote.

But perhaps a better solution would be: don’t post ANY (national) results until ALL the polls are closed. You vote on Tuesday, you find out on Wednesday. In this way, the east coast state results won’t influence the western state voting. Each state could post local results, but federal ballot results wouldn’t be reported until the following day.

The only people I can see who would be against this would be all the news organizations who are poised to provide up-to-the-minute election results.

What, you think their vote will matter more if no one else’s has been counted yet? I knew in February who was going to win. I don’t understand why you’d think the result has to be a secret for a vote to “count”. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone thinks their vote counts, period, but that’s a separate issue for a separate thread. It’s a fact that in every race, it’s over before it begins. People know how they’re going to vote. Plugging your ears and not listening to what the east coast decided doesn’t make your vote somehow more powerful. Voting is really just a census of the decisions already made. It doesn’t matter who’s counted first.

  1. Then go to bed. The guy’s going to be president for the next 4/8 years. You can’t bear to put off the result until the morning? I’ve never understood the frenzy of election night. It’s more boring than a soccer game. I tuned in around 8:30, saw that PA went blue, and called the election myself.

Why not have the polls open for 24 hours on election day, with them all opening and closing at the same time?

A former neighbor who did early voting in Florida this year mentioned that it took much longer to do this than it ever took to do a regular ballot. He waited about 4 hours to vote.

Since they did it in only a few locations, they had to wait till each person was located, then print the specific ballot for their precinct. (And the ballot was 4 pages long, in 3 languages.) This bottleneck caused a big delay, resulting in a long wait. He mentioned that many people left because of this: the older, retired people because they physically couldn’t stand in line that long; the younger people because they had to get to work.

Early voting via a mail-in ballot might be better. But that imposes special deadlines, and shifts some of the cost onto the voter. Also, you would have to watch for corrupt Post Office employees messing up the vote. Here in Minneapolis, we have one Postmaster who is known for delaying the delivery of DFL Sample Ballots until after the election.