Early Voting — The Hard Way?

As the November general election draws closer, students become increasingly interested in elections.  The deadline for registering for the November election is October 6. 

Texas adopted No Excuses Early Voting in the late 1980s as a method of encouraging voter turnout.  In effect, the state has reduced the costs associated with voting by giving Texans more opportunities to vote. 

Recently, the Nacogdoches County Commissioner’s Court voted to open satellite voting locations in the county.  Each location will be open for one or two days during the early voting period of October 20 – October 31.  Locations include the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University and several outlying towns in rural parts of the county.  The decision was not without controversy.  Objections raised to the satellite locations included the cost to the county, which may reach as much as $3000.  Another objection was that voting in an election is a right, not a privilege; therefore, citizens should be expected to work and to sacrifice to vote and not be handed an opportunity to vote at their convenience.  In addition, there were two objections specific to having early voting on the university campus.  The campus location was seen as too close to the county courthouse; the courthouse is a mile from campus.  Despite the fact that the university is the largest employer in the county and that the early voting location is open to all community residents, some people complained that students were being given preferential treatment.

Here are some ideas to discuss with your students:
Where are the early voting locations in your county?  Is early voting only at the county courthouse or do other locations exist? Does your campus have a polling place for the general election or an early voting location? Given the low voter turnout among younger voters (See Table 7.2 on page 192 of the book), is an early voting location on a college campus a good idea? Are students being treated differently? What determined the early voting locations in your county? More generally, is early voting a good idea? Or, should citizens be expected to work or sacrifice to vote? If the latter is true, what are the implication for democratic theory and for representative government?


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