Editorial | Early voting and the future

Editorial on strength of early voting
Photo by Dean Moses

For the fourth-straight general election cycle, New Yorkers had the opportunity to cast their vote early — and this October/November was the second-highest early vote total so far.

Only the 2020 presidential election saw the most early votes in New York City overall, with more than a million cast during that heated campaign which also occurred amidst the COVID-19 campaign. This year, 432,634 New Yorkers exercised their voting rights early across the Five Boroughs, with the most votes coming from Brooklyn and Manhattan — each of which tallied more than 100,000 voters.

Look at the glass half empty, and you’ll see that early voting turnout was down about 60% from what it was in 2020. But look at the glass half full, and you’ll see that the 2022 early voting turnout was nearly double of what it was at the polls during the 2021 mayoral election.

All in all, it’s a good sign for New York’s democracy. The midterm elections certainly motivated New Yorkers to cast their ballots. We believe a great many more of them, with the pandemic almost an afterthought, might be ready to go back to standard Election Day voting today.

But the mere fact that every New York voter now has the option to cast their ballots almost whenever they want — either through early voting or on Primary or Election Day — will help grow the democratic process in New York for generations to come.

Nationally, there’s been pushback amongst some against the concept of early voting and mail-in voting, with some — namely MAGA Republicans — calling for voting to be restricted back to a single day. 

We have to ask ourselves why any American would want to prevent other Americans from voting — or make it so difficult for them to do so.

Our politics may have cynically reduced elections to wins and losses, like a sporting event, but voting and democracy mean so much more than that. 

It may sound corny, but we are lucky to live in a country where we choose our leaders, and not let the leaders choose for us. We are lucky to have a government that we install with our votes, one that is dedicated to working for our benefit and the common good of all.

In past years, we worked as Americans to take down various other barriers that prevented all Americans from voting — from outlawing gender discrimination, poll taxes and literacy tests, to changing age restrictions that made all Americans “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” 

Early voting serves to further empower all of us because it takes down the barriers of time. It empowers all of us who can’t easily pull ourselves from work or other obligations with greater flexibility to make our voices heard.

We have the power to do that now, and may we always have it in every election going forward.