Conservative media are using Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault against a reporter to push for ending early voting, because voters who have already cast their ballots in today’s election would not be able to consider the assault charge. Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked early voting, even though it allows more people to participate, results in more accurate vote counts, and reduces barriers to voting, including for people of color. Experts also say most early voters are unlikely to change their votes at the last minute.
After Gianforte, a Republican running for Montana’s lone seat in the House, was charged on May 24 with assaulting a reporter, conservative media figures used the incident to attack early voting. CNN’s Rick Santorum called the alleged assault “another good reason” to end early voting. MSNBC contributor Katie Packer Beeson tweeted that the incident is “another argument against early voting.” HotAir editor Jazz Shaw retweeted Packer Beeson, adding, “Only one of many examples.”
Right-wing media have a history of attacking early voting, claiming “there’s no reason” for it and saying it “inevitably increases the potential for fraud.” Some have even argued that it violates the Constitution. These claims, however, have been thoroughly debunked.
Early voting is extremely important. The Washington Post noted that allowing citizens to vote before the official election day “addresses systemic barriers” minority voters face, and The New York Times reported that “cutbacks in early voting periods … disproportionately affect minorities.” In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled against early voting restrictions in Ohio, pointing out that decreasing early voting disproportionately hurts voters who are “women, older, and of lower income and education attainment.”
Additionally, experts note that those who vote early tend to do so in the two weeks leading up to an election and are firmly decided on whom they are voting for, meaning last-minute events, however shocking, are unlikely to change their opinions. And while some may come to regret their decisions come Election Day, those numbers are nothing compared to the number of people who would be disenfranchised by eliminating early voting.