Special elections to Congress, held just before holiday weekends, are generally low-turnout affairs. Based on the number of reported mail-in ballots (238,320 at last count), about two-thirds of the total votes have already been cast. Greg Gianforte could easily win despite losing the endorsement of the Billings Gazette, the Missoulan, and the Helena Independent Record.
(An aside, if you want to lose the endorsement of literally every press outlet in a political race, physically attack a reporter. It’s very effective.)
But this last-minute swerve presents a problem for those who advocate Oregon-style voting, where the entire electorate votes by mail. Certainly, sending a paper ballot to every registered voter in a district or state will increase the “turnout,” but it skews the vote away from any last-minute changes in the race.
It also subverts the American political pastime of “Get Out The Vote” (GOTV), which dates back to Reagan’s days as a party stalwart in California’s governor race. Who came up with the idea that increased voter turnout somehow yields a better result in a representative democracy? If Democrats didn’t believe they had demographics on their side, they’d be the first to poo-poo universal vote-by-mail.
In any case, prepare to hear about the tyranny of vote-by-mail if Gianforte wins in Montana on the backs of mailed-in ballots sent days before his assault of Guardian reporter (and former Democratic activist) Ben Jacobs.
Election Day should be the day when voters substantially decide a race. Early voting is a convenience, but it shouldn’t be the answer. Turnout is a race determinant, but it shouldn’t be the holy grail of the democratic process. The right to not vote, or not care, is part and parcel of our liberty.