Voting Early

I voted yesterday. But it took a little bit of effort. I live in Alabama which is one of about 20 states that doesn't allow early voting. My southern neighbors have turned out in droves: at last count, 1.8 million people have voted in North Carolina. One-quarter of Georgia's voters have already cast ballots. Florida's Governor, Charlie Crist, extended early voting hours because so many people have jammed polling places.

Alabama residents aren't so lucky. You can vote absentee if you'll be out of town on Election Day or qualify for a few narrow exemptions. In an era when we try to encourage people to vote, some question why we don't do more to help them do their democratic duty. Four years ago, 22% of voters cast early ballots. This election, the experts predict that number may be as high as 35%. And it seems anything that can be done to lessen lines or problems on election day would be a good thing.

Still, when I voted yesterday at the county courthouse in downtown Birmingham, there were about 100 people in line. White, black, Latino. Old, middle-aged and first-time voters. Even in a state like Alabama, where John McCain enjoys a comfortable 20-point lead in the polls, people seemed excited to cast ballots in this election — even if they had to jump over some voting hurdles.



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