On Early Voting In Ohio

In Ohio, early voting already is in full swing.  Voters here will have more than a month before Election Day to cast their ballots.  It’s one of the reasons why the Obama and Romney campaigns have been so active here recently, with visits from the candidates and their surrogates, lots of TV ads, and extensive “ground games” and door-knocking efforts.  (For an interesting Cleveland Plain Dealer article that attempts to assess the relative strength of the Romney and Obama “ground games” in Ohio, see here.)

According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, in 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohioans cases either early “in person” ballots or traditional mail-in absentee ballots.  That’s about 30 percent of the 5.77 million votes cast overall in Ohio in 2008.  The conventional wisdom is that early voting favors Democratic candidates, because Democrats tend to have jobs that cause them to work odd hours.  (How would anyone test that little bit of CW, by the way?)  Given the size of the “early voting” bloc, is there any wonder that the campaigns are trying to make sure that they maintain a strong presence in Ohio throughout the early voting period, in hopes of catching wavering undecided voters who can be persuaded by the dedicated campaign volunteers at their doors to fill out and send in their ballots?

I like voting in person on Election Day.  It’s one of the true common communal experiences we have in our diverse and sprawling nation, and the quiet act of voting with my fellow citizens always makes me feel good about living in a democracy.  But I also think that early voting is curious, because it means that citizens are voting on the basis of different sets of information.  People who vote on October 7 obviously can’t consider what happens in the remaining month before Election Day.  What if there were some huge scandal, or game-changing incident during that intervening period?  Wouldn’t you want to wait until you have all of the relevant information before you cast your ballot?

This year, I wonder how many people have cast their ballots on the basis of the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.  If you’re President Obama, aren’t you hoping that early voters at least hold off until after the second debate, when you have a chance to improve upon your initial performance?

Turnpike Turnoff

As you would expect from the party out of office, the Ohio Democratic Party opposes just about everything proposed by Republican Governor John Kasich.  The Democrats have had some victories — but I still think they need to learn how to pick their battles.

The latest howls of outrage are directed at the decision to study possibly privatizing the Ohio Turnpike.  Is the opposition due to the fact that Ohio taxpayers will be paying more consultants to produce more studies?  No, of course not!  According to an email from Liz Walter, the Political Director of the Ohio Democratic Party, the problem is that privatization might cost public employee jobs.  Her email statest:  “Over a thousand employees – many of them union workers – could lose their jobs if he’s successful. That’s why our Congressional Democrats are doing everything they can to stand up for these workers and stop Governor Kasich’s latest assault on our middle class.”

So, any “loss” of a public employee job — even a conversion of a public employee job to a private sector job — is an “assault on the middle class”?  Doesn’t anyone in the Democratic Party realize how ludicrous that sounds?  If that attitude had prevailed throughout American history, we would still have flatboat operators and Erie Canal mule drivers on the public payroll.  If Ohio is to be competitive in the dynamic modern world, we can’t be saddled with the cost of paying workers to fill unnecessary legacy jobs.

I don’t think the Turnpike is some grand asset that we need to keep under government control as a matter of Ohio pride.  If privatizing a toll road through northern Ohio makes sense from an economic standpoint, we should do it.  Conditions change, and if those changed conditions result in the elimination of government jobs, so be it.