Vote Early? Maybe So, Maybe Not

For some folks, the decision to vote early is a no-brainer. It’s convenient, they say, oftentimes just another stop while running errands. Others like to vote when the weather suits them or when it best fits their work or travel schedule. The Putnam County election office offers easy in-and-out with no stairs and minimal walking, which makes things easier for voters with limited mobility. As a rule, the line during early voting moves quickly, if there’s a line at all. Several registrars are always on duty and ten voting machines help speed up the process.

The election office, located at 705 County Services Drive, will be open for early voting for fourteen days, starting next Wednesday and continuing through November 1. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Thursday from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Convenience isn’t the only reason some people choose to cast their votes before Election Day officially rolls around. I’ve worked during early voting for several years, and the most interesting—and inspirational–reason I hear from people who vote early has nothing to do with making their lives easier.  It’s this: “If I die before Election Day, I want to have had a say-so on who’s running our government.”

Now that’s what I call commitment to the democratic process.

A love for democracy is also why some people choose to wait until Election Day, which is November 6 this year, to vote. “I want to cast my vote on one special day just like millions of Americans all across the country are doing,” many of them say. “It’s just plain patriotic.” Others point out that voting at their own precinct rather than the election office gives them a chance to see neighbors they rarely run into in other places.


But those reasons don’t clutch at my heart like this one: “I wait until the very last day to vote so I can be fully informed,” some voters say.  “If something significant happens in regard to a candidate and I’ve already voted, I feel like I’ve wasted or been irresponsible with my vote.”

These voters sometimes bring up the state and federal general election of 1998. Incumbent Tennessee state senator Tommy Burks was murdered by his political opponent after early voting had begun. As required by state law, Burks’s name was covered up on the ballot after he died. None of the votes cast for him while he was still alive counted. Those who remember that tragic time know that his widow, Charlotte Burks, became a write-in candidate and won the election. Twenty years later, that story continues to make some voters reluctant to cast their ballots early.

Whether you chose to vote early or wait until Election Day, the important thing is to be informed and to vote. The future of our nation depends on it.

(October 14, 2018)