It was like Christmas morning when it came in the mail. For a political nerd like myself, receiving an absentee ballot provides a sense of giddy.
When my ballot for Missouri’s August primary election arrived in early July, I could hardly contain my excitement. I even tweeted a picture of the envelope it came in.
But then I let the ballot just sit on my kitchen counter for four weeks. I refused to pick it up.
It tempted me many times, but I resisted the urge to fill it out.
I didn’t want buyer’s remorse. What if something happened between sticking the ballot in the mailbox and Election Day that changed my mind?
I still haven’t received my ballot for November’s general election. But when I do, it’ll sit on that same countertop for days.
I don’t want to take any risks. I want to let the campaigns play out before I make my picks.
However, not everyone feels that way. Thousands of Americans have already cast ballots, either by absentee ballot or through early voting.
In Indiana, early voting began Wednesday. Between 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 226 Jay County voters cast ballots at Jay County Courthouse.
I’m a bit skeptical of early voting, but I can’t deny it has its benefits.
It certainly enfranchises more Americans.
Take for instance John Worley of Portland, who voted at the courthouse Thursday afternoon. Worley said that as a truck driver, early voting better fits to his schedule.
No one’s profession should keep them from the polls and early voting helps rectify that issue.
It also takes away excuses for those who skip the polls. With nearly four weeks and plenty of beautiful fall days ahead, no can blame adverse weather on Election Day for keeping them home.
Conversely, early voting lets thousands of voters nationwide cast ballots before the campaign season has run its course.
It lets voters make their final decision before they have the full range of information an election cycle might provide.
That’s a concern, because campaigns matter.
Take for example the video that was published Oct. 7 of Republican candidate Donald Trump uttering lewd and disgusting comments about women.
There’s proof it may influence the presidential vote. Polls released since the video went public show Democrat Hillary Clinton climbing.
In Wisconsin, a recent poll conducted from Oct. 6 through 9 shows Clinton’s lead increasing, possibly because of Trump’s actions.
The poll found 44 percent of likely voters supporting Clinton and 37 percent supporting Trump. The same poll found Clinton with only a three-point lead in September.
“The (video’s) publication appears to have caused a significant shift in Wisconsin voters’ attitudes, across several different demographics,” the poll’s director Charles Franklin said in a press release.
For some, that change in attitude came too late. The Associated Press reported that on the day the video was released, 70,740 absentee ballots were already cast in Wisconsin.
In Indiana, undecided and uncommitted voters should be especially wary of casting an early ballot given the state’s contentious U.S. Senate election. Just this week, Evan Bayh’s post-senatorial work has came under more scrutiny.
What else might come out about the two candidates before Election Day?
If I was an Indiana voter, I’d like to wait and see before I made my pick.
While I have concerns about early voting, I don’t want to infer that those who partake in it are ignorant or blindly casting ballots.
For one, some who are casting ballots early may be so well-versed in the issues that they don’t need to wait until Nov. 8. For others, they are so committed to their candidates that nothing will change their mind.
To vote earlier doesn’t mean one hasn’t carefully considered their choices.
Take for example Deb and Craig McCoy. The Portland couple told me, before they voted Thursday, that they went back and forth on their presidential pick but had made a final decision.
In talking with them, it was clear they had done their homework and wouldn’t be changing their mind.
“I think we’re pretty well set,” Craig said.
My absentee ballot should arrive any day now. When it does, it will sit on the counter.
I’m not well set at this point, but I’ve still got 24 days to make up my mind.