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October 22, 2014

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The folly of early voting

Jon Ralston pleads with readers to wait until they’ve had a chance to weigh all the facts before pulling a lever for democracy

Permit me a break from watching the wheels fall off Sue Lowden’s bus as she careens toward the finish line or listening to the last gasps of Jim Gibbons’ candidacy before a peril-laden lame-duck period begins to issue a biennial admonition: Don’t vote.

At least not yet.

For those who voted Saturday and have done so today, it is too late. But as the abomination known as early voting continues for the next fortnight, resist the urge to end the misery caused by hollow rhetoric and inane TV ads by casting your ballot before its time on June 8.

I know this rant falls on deaf ears — if history is a guide, half of the primary voting universe will have dispensed with the sacred duty with the solemnity of a trip to the convenience store. I am used to being ignored (do not forget — I have a teenage daughter).

But imagine:

You voted for U.S. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle this weekend and then watch in horror the disclosure June 1 that she had a bit part in “Battlefield Earth,” left on the cutting room floor because she advocated mandatory chemical castration of rapists.

You voted for gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval this weekend and then recoil with revulsion at the revelation June 4 that a tape exists of him saying, “I had to lie during the campaign but, of course, I will raise taxes.”

Or, perhaps, you voted this weekend for congressional aspirant Michelle Fiore and then blanch with embarrassment at the unveiling June 7 of a defunct website in which she was selling guns on the black market to illegal immigrants.

These are obviously fantastic scenarios (I think), but I exaggerate to make a point. In case you missed it in my subtlety, that point is: Don’t vote. At least not yet.

Early voting was conceived as a way to increase turnout and make it more convenient. But in about two decades, it has not accomplished the former and should not have succeeded at the latter. Turnout in Nevada remains abysmal — 15 percent in Clark County during the 2008 primary.

And why should voting be a convenience, thus reducing its importance to picking up a pack of Trident at the 7-Eleven? I wonder if any of the folks blithely voting this weekend and for the next two weeks have any appreciation for the interminable lines or threats to life and limb those in other countries are willing to endure for the right to vote for their leaders?

It’s not just the potential to miss something that could make you regret your vote — it’s your duty to wait until June 8. So: Don’t vote. At least not yet.

This cycle, I fear, will be worse than most. I would not be surprised if early voting is at a record percentage of total turnout. Why?

Never before in recent history have people had their minds made up, often bereft of facts and unencumbered by thought. Blind anger — emphasis on the first word — governs so much of the political colloquy today that you would have more luck convincing many Republicans that the world is flat than persuading them to vote for Harry Reid. You would have a better chance of inducing Democrats to hop on the birther bandwagon than to consider the possibility that Shelley Berkley isn’t the greatest congresswoman since Bella Abzug.

So if you know what you like — or more likely, loathe — why take the time to carefully deliberate, look at all the facts and make a rational decision?

Better to vote early. Don’t worry, be angry.

Meanwhile, the willfully benighted will trundle down to malls and elsewhere only to be confronted by ballots with names they have never heard of. What, there are judicial races? Who are these people?

Those with patience, though, will have the benefit of televised debates during the run-up to June 8 so they can make — oh, the horror! — an informed, intelligent decision. It will once again be striking — and depressing — how many folks will skip over the judicial races on their ballots after they vote for their favored candidate near the top of the ticket — or more likely, press the button for the candidate they hate the least.

I know I am whistling in the dark, that too many of you prefer ignorance to information, heat to light. So be it.

But when something dramatic occurs during the next two weeks and you already have cast your ballot for the scandalized candidate, don’t blame me. (Did I mention I am working on this great story about this leading candidate for …?)

Don’t vote. At least not yet.

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