A bunch of my friends and family have voted early. Not me. I’m voting on election day. Why?
Look, let’s be clear that it doesn’t make any sense to vote if your goal is to determine the outcome of the election. The probability that the outcome would be tied in the absence of your vote is so remote as to not be worth your time bothering. And even in the extremely unlikely event that the margin in a presidential election were 1 vote, the outcome would almost certainly be decided by a handful of unelected judges rather than your vote. We’ve already seen that even if the margin is a few hundred votes, there is enough imprecision in the casting and counting of votes that the courts will really determine the outcome.
I know, I know, you can say that if everyone thought that way, no one would vote. But that’s entirely beside the point. The self-interested rational thing to do if you are only concerned with determining the outcome is to urge everyone else to vote and save yourself the effort.
So why vote if it is irrational to expect that your vote will be the deciding one? Rational people don’t vote to break what they otherwise expect to be a tie. They vote because it is part of a social, communal experience.
And that is exactly why I am voting on election day and not early. I want to go to the polling place, visit with my neighbors, and drink some bad coffee. Voting is like doing the wave at a football game. It almost certainly has no effect on the game. It’s purpose is to participate and enjoy the social feeling of being part of something. It makes no more sense to vote early than to do the wave while watching the game at home on your TV. Voting, like doing the wave, is a social experience whose benefits depend upon context.
Besides, politics is becoming more like sports everyday. People choose teams and root for them, even if there is no obvious benefit to them for doing so. They watch the returns like looking at the boxscore. So, I want to be at the game when I vote, just like I’m going to be at Bud Walton Arena, the basketball palace of mid-America, to watch the Razorbacks. I want to call the Hogs with the crowd. I want to see them raise the Arkansas flag banner behind the pyramid of cheerleaders (it brings a tear to my eye, everytime).