By the time many of you read this, the 2018 midterm elections will be decided.
If predictions are correct, it will be one for the record books in terms of voter turnout both here in Missouri and across the country.
In fact, national turnout for the midterms could surpass 50 percent of voters, which would be unprecedented, at least in terms of recent history.
That kind of voter participation is good for our democracy. Election experts say one of the factors fueling the high turnout nationally is the popularity of early voting.
The majority of states, 37, now offer some form of early voting or “no-excuse absentee voting” options, and once a state adopts early voting, more people take advantage of the convenience early voting offers.
Since the early 1990s, the number of voters who cast their ballots prior to Election Day has steadily risen from less than a tenth to over a third, according to Michael P. McDonald, a Univeristy of Florida political scientist.
That number could easily exceed 40 percent for this week’s midterm and there is an outside chance that this could be the first election in modern times where the majority of votes are cast prior to Election Day.
The trends are undeniable. Approximately one-third of 2016’s votes came in early and a Los Angeles Times’ report published last week stated that 23 million Americans have already voted early in this year’s midterm, a level that a leading political scientist called “unprecedented.”
Unfortunately and inexplicably, Missouri is one of the 13 states that does not offer true “no excuse” early voting – instead clinging to an outdated form of absentee balloting where a voter has to affirm he or she meets one of the six requirements before casting an early ballot.
It’s time for our state to get with the program and flip our antiquated script when it comes to early voting. As the Kansas City Star aptly noted, there is no excuse for Missouri not making it easier and more convenient for its citizens to vote.
There is an easy way to lessen those long lines on Election Day and encourage even more participation in our representative democracy by changing our state election laws to allow true early voting.
If state lawmakers are unwilling to embrace modern election trends by changing the law on early voting, we hope this issue finds its way on an initiative petition where we believe it would easily prevail.