Can we keep a lid on election results for West Coast voters?

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2010

It is 4 p.m. on election afternoon as I vacation in Waikiki. The polls won't close at home in Juneau, or here in Honolulu for another two hours. On the rest of the West Coast they generally won't close for another hour. Yet for more than an hour CNN, and probably the other cable and network channels, have been declaring John Boehner the new Speaker of the House. They are highlighting the east coast and southern races in which Republican Senate candidates have displaced Democrats.

The sun and the ocean breeze may be paradise here, but my heart is not light. How many after-work voters are going to say "the heck with it." The political balance of the country for next two years, the newscaster says, has been determined. Maybe, these Hawaiians and Alaskans say to themselves, I'll just go home and relax. My vote doesn't matter anyway, they say.

That is not true, of course. Senate and House majorities notwithstanding, many local issues, and the balance of state legislatures, are yet to be determined. For that to work the way it is supposed to, a good turnout is needed.

If we truly expect democracy to work we must give serious thought to stopping early projections of winners, and also early reporting of actual results from the East Coast. One solution is a countrywide time for releasing results of vote counts. Is it so out of the question that election divisions and secretaries of state across the country could agree no poll results would be released before midnight, Eastern Daylight Time? I believe that would be late enough to allow voters in all 50 states to vote without being unduly influenced by pundits telling them their vote does not count.

Jim Greenough


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