Vote early, if not often


For quite a while, I resisted the temptations of "early voting" or "voting by mail," and remained steadfast in my preference for voting the old-fashioned way: at my precinct on Election Day.

It made me feel something like the way I felt when I attended church as a kid, that I was joining others in something that was bigger than any of us.

But upon reflection, it was also the easiest way then. Chaffee County, Colorado, had 15 precincts, and the polling place for mine was a gym (once part of the now-closed Roman Catholic K-8 parochial school) right across the street.

Sure, there may have been lines on Election Day, but I never stood in them. I'd just glance out the front door through the day, and when I saw that there weren't many voters' cars parked on the street, I'd walk over, chat with my neighbors serving as election judges, and vote.

Much has changed in recent years, though. Our county went from 15 precinct voting locations to three "election centers," and the nearest one is now six blocks away, too far for easy checking on its parking density.

Vote by mail? I do a lot of business with the postal service, and while I think it does a pretty good job, I still don't quite trust it with my vote. I'd rather hand-deliver my ballot to the county clerk at the courthouse -- which is pretty close to the same thing as early voting.

But I'd always been leery of early voting for one reason: What if something pops up just before Election Day that would change my mind and make me regret a vote?

That is a risk, but the more I thought about it, the more trouble I had coming up with any plausible October surprise that would change my mind.

So this year I tried early voting, which runs Oct. 20 - 31 in Colorado. I still hate standing in line, even for something as important as voting, so I figured I'd wait a couple of days until any early rush had a chance to fade. My wife, Martha, and I went up to the courthouse on Thursday, where the county clerk had an early voting center set up in a side room.

(Just why I keep calling the building the courthouse reflects age and habit. The courts are actually down the street in another building, the county judicial facility. So the building with the clerk's and treasurer's offices couldn't really be the courthouse, since it no longer has any courtrooms.)

The room was never empty of voters, but there were no lines. Thus I didn't feel guilty for holding up those behind me while I worked my way down Colorado's long ballot -- even longer here on account of four school-district measures and six city issues.

I slid my three pages of ballot into the scanner myself; and I guess I'll have to trust the machine's statement that it all scanned properly. And I trust our county clerks here; in 1982, I was in the clerk's office on election night when the incumbent, who was in charge of counting the votes, announced his own loss.

Anyway, if you've had qualms about early voting, I'd say it's worth a try -- especially if you hate standing in line.