All of us who are registered voters in Ohio received applications this week in the mail for absentee ballots for the November election. And with this application came the thought, “why not just get that ballot, vote and be done with this thing?” Except, this won’t end the barrage of mail, phone, and TV advertising and news coverage of the candidates. Not until November 8.
I wonder how many other Americans feel as I do that this electoral process has gone on far too long. These candidates were already prominent in the media over a year ago. Since late spring at least, it has been clear who were the party nominees. And given the media attention, it seems that you would have to be living under a rock not to have a sense of who these people are and what they stand for. I suspect most of us, if we were planning to vote, knew who we were voting for months ago.
Traditionally, presidential campaigns began after Labor Day and were waged seriously for two months. Primary campaigns in the spring of election year went on for about four months, January to May. Most began campaigning in earnest just before that, then took a break until the conventions, and then began in earnest at Labor Day. I think this probably makes sense in a country as large as ours. Now it is not unheard of for a candidate to start running nearly two years ahead.
I’ve seen estimates that at least $5 billion dollars will be spent on the presidential campaign alone. While the Citizens United ruling considers the spending and advertising of PACs constitutionally protected free speech, it just strikes me as an insane waste of money, and mostly disinformation. It is also fascinating how wealthy interests can speak much louder. And this doesn’t take into consideration all the spending on other campaigns.
I seriously don’t think we will see campaign finance reform any time soon. But a shorter electoral process might lessen the amounts of money needed to sustain campaigns over such a long period. And it would have mercy on us poor voters, especially in swing states like Ohio. I seriously wonder if it would make sense to set some legal boundaries on when campaigns can begin on a public basis. It seems to me that it would make sense to keep them to the year in which the vote will take place.
The one advantage of voting absentee is that it permits me to turn my attention elsewhere. But one reason I can see for waiting until election day is, having been thoroughly acquainted with our presidential candidates, I can use the time to focus on down ballot candidates and issues, including the state and local elections that may be just as consequential. How often, for example, do we really examine the qualifications of local judicial candidates? Yet our local court systems are foundational to our justice system.
Well, thanks for letting me ramble. At least you didn’t have to listen to me as long as you have to listen to our candidates!