Latest Lame Low-Turnout Excuse: 'Couldn't Get Time Off Work'

November 13th, 2014 9:35 AM

Well, if this doesn't beat all.

Based on excuses provided by 63 people (35 percent) out of a "smallish sample" (I'll say) of 181 nonvoters, the Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham whined on Wednesday (HT Twitchy) about how "scheduling conflicts with work or school" kept people from voting last Tuesday. This alleged problem calls for solutions like "requiring employers to allow flexible scheduling on voting days," "making election day a national holiday," and/or "requiring eligible citizens to vote." Even if you buy the "I was working" excuse — which I don't — Ingraham acts as if other means of voting don't exist, when of course they do.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures;

Most states have a method for any eligible voter to cast a ballot before Election Day, either during the early voting period or by requesting an absentee ballot. In 14 states, early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot.

States offer three ways for voters to cast a ballot before Election Day:

1. Early Voting: In 33 states and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. No excuse or justification is required.

2. Absentee Voting: All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters who request one. The voter may return the ballot by mail or in person. In 20 states, an excuse is required, while 27 states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering an excuse. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list: once a voter asks to be added to the list, s/he will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.

3. Mail Voting: A ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary), and the state does not use traditional precinct poll sites that offer in-person voting on Election Day. Three states use mail voting.

Here's how it maps out:


39 states and the District of Columbia allow early voting in some form. 33 of them offer no-excuse absentee voting. And we're supposed to sympathize with people who — if you even believe them, which in most cases I don't — say they couldn't vote on Election Day? If they knew they would be tied up at work, and even if they just figured it out during the previous week, they could have voted early in most states.

Now let's look at this year's turnout map compared to 2010 — a map which, by the way, alleged polling guru Nate Silver used to falsely claim that "almost every state" had lower turnout, when in fact 13 of the roughly 43 states which had a U.S. Senate or gubernatorial election had increased turnout:


The correlation between turnout increases and contested U.S. Senate and/or governor's races is far stronger than any correlation between turnout and the availability of non-Election Day voting methods. Voting in my home state of Ohio is as easy as it can be: no-excuse absentee voting and almost a month of early voting. Yet turnout dropped by almost 9 percent, because the statewide races were GOP-dominated snoozers.

Ingraham's "solutions" noted above are basically means to get votes from those who either don't want to vote or can't get their act together to vote. Despite what Australia does, compulsion should play no role in elections. And despite what some people say about the wonders of higher participation, people who can't pull it together to vote, given how easy it is already, shouldn't need any additional help — and it's debatable whether we should even be interested in their likely uninformed, apathetic opinions anyway. The guess here is that such people would be more likely to vote for liberal and Democratic candidates than coservativess and Republicans — which may explain why Ingraham is pushing his ideas.

As to the "work and school" excuse, polls are open in the vast majority of states for at least 12 hours on Election Day. I'd love to know how many of the 63 people in that ridiculously small sample actually worked or commuted during the entire time the polls were open. I bet the answer would be, "very few."

Cross-posted at