Early Returns

Early Voting's Disconnect From Information

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

For better or worse.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Tom Nichols argues that the last-minute news breaking in the Montana special election strengthened the argument against early voting. I just don't see it.

Nichols thinks of campaigns as "a test of character." To the extent that's true -- and I'd say very little, but that's up to voters, not analysts -- the problem is that it's not at all clear that whatever is "revealed" by a campaign isn't inherently more important than what the candidates have already demonstrated in their lives up to this point. Including -- for someone who votes, say, a month early -- by most of the campaign. 

Now, in this particular case, the charge against winning candidate Greg Gianforte, for allegedly assaulting a reporter, may have been important enough to justify placing heavy weight on it. But imagine if the late-breaking event turned out to be less than it seemed at the time (hey, James Comey!). In such cases, spreading out the voting over time probably makes for a more rational outcome. 

The truth is, all elections involve voters with radically incomplete information. That's just how it is, and how it's going to be, in any mass democracy, especially one with so many elections. I'm not a huge fan of early voting as the best solution for making voting easier, but I just can't see how a particular piece of information revealed in the final days of a campaign is of any great importance. 

With one exception: I have come to believe the combination of early voting with the sequential system of presidential primaries and caucuses is a real problem. Early voters are missing out on systematically important information, both because of strategic voting reasons (early voters don't know which candidates are viable) and because the candidates may not have even begun campaigning in that state yet when early voting begins. I'm not sure what the best solution is, but it does seem like a real problem to me.

1. Molly Reynolds at Brookings on candidate recruitment and the 2018 midterms. 

2. At the Monkey Cage, Joshua Tucker talks with Adam Berinsky about misinformation and the Montana special election.

3. Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy on the latest survey of political scientists about the health of U.S. democracy.

4. My Bloomberg View colleague Timothy L. O'Brien on how Donald Trump is using the tactics he learned in real estate to deal with the Russia scandal. 

5. Fred Kaplan at Slate on how Trump botched his NATO speech.

6. And Ross Douthat on letting Trump be Trump.

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