Chesterton’s Fence and The First Tuesday in November: In Defense of In-Person Voting

With each passing day it becomes clear that this election is a verifiable mess, a chaotic repudiation of the very system of universal suffrage itself. Now, as it stands, we are left beleaguer, stymied by the depths of chicanery never seen before. Only one thing remains certain, it’s going to get worse.

But in this moment of absolute chaos something is becoming increasingly clear to the honest among us: there is a reason why the First Tuesday in November was chosen and enshrined in law.

Among those things which make GK Chesterton famous, he is probably best known for his Fence.

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Clearly, the First Tuesday in November is a fence and we’ve allowed it to be removed without asking why it was put there in the first place.

There are multiple reasons why the First Tuesday was selected: its convenient to the rural farmer, of which our nation was originally made up of, as by the end of October the harvest is in; often, people had to travel to their polling places over long distances and being a church going population, voters would not travel on Sunday in order to make it to polls on Monday. In most States, the weather in early November isn’t bad enough to make travel untenable. Early November also leaves plenty of time for ballots to be counted in time for January.

At first glance, these appear to be the only reasons, but in light of election night chaos there’s something about the First Tuesday in November that feels sacred—or at least an ending, a cut off.

In the name of expanding the right to vote to as many people as possible, many states enacted early voting (usually by mail) laws in the 1980s and 1990s. This “innovation” of course was pioneered by California, when they did away with rules requiring voters to give an excuse as to why they needed to vote by mail. Absentee voting was devised so that soldiers in the Armed Forces could cast ballots even while on the frontlines. Good, of those who deserve the franchise, soldiers stand at the top of that list.

However, there is an insidious, pervasive idea that has promulgated especially among the left: that everyone, everywhere should vote in all elections. The concept of expanding the vote to be as totally convenient as absolutely possible to as many people as possible is highly destructive. Not because I don’t believe people shouldn’t have the right to vote, but because those who are truly interested in voting will go and vote.

For the interested voter, whether he be left or right, he will get up, get dressed, and arrive at a polling station, before work, after work, during his lunch hour—whenever—so that he might take part in decision making. Make no mistake, when you vote, you’re making a decision that affects you and everyone around you. It is your responsibility to ensure you understand what you’re doing.

That’s why it should be striking, to even the most least informed reader, that after the third (but actually second) debate of the 2020 election season between Trump and Biden, google saw an uptick in searches asking “can I change my vote?” In some states, like New York, you can. In others, like Arizona, you can’t. Some have special rules: if you vote early by mail, you can change your vote. If you vote early in person, you’re S-O-L.

For example, you live in Arizona and cast your early mail-in ballot for Biden because you’re not a fan of Trump’s bloviating, arrogant personality. Despite your decision, and the pride you have in it. You catch wind, especially after the last debate, that Biden’s son, Hunter, has been involved in some shady dealings. Confident that Hunter is his own man, you don’t think too much of it, but curiosity itches just a bit in the back of your brain so you do a google search and discover that “the Big Guy” might be involved too. You spend several days thinking about it and decide that maybe you’re not as comfortable with Biden as you thought. You call your County Election’s Board and they tell you that you’ve cast a vote.

That’s it. You’re voting for Biden whether you like it or not. Your ignorant past-self just disenfranchised your more knowledgeable present-self.

I can hear the argument already: the idea that our ancestors would hear the latest, most up-to-date news is nonsense.

I agree—to a point, but you’re playing the “no one traveled more than 50 miles from their homes back then” card that often plagues Medieval aficionados like myself. Point one, people traveled before the automobile, just slower. Point two, those travelers brought news far and wide—to the county fair, to the local market, to the church and tavern—and they shared it wherever they went. Fake or true, people used their own sense to determine the truth. This primal viral spreading of information is often forgotten in our high-tech, lightning fast present.

This lightning fast, instant information present is one of the reasons why I believe early voting should be terminated and a hard-starting line and deadline of the First Tuesday in November be implemented and enforced. That people are casting ballots as early as mid-October, in a world where information moves as fast as a mouse click, means voters may learn and desire to alter their decision. It behooves us to give interested voters as much time as possible to learn as much as possible.

Now, I’m not saying that anyone will even use the time up to the First Tuesday in November effectively—but some will. And now, perhaps, as the conversation over election reform grows, more might be drawn in.

I want that fence back.

Published by Anastasia Cosmo

Contributor to Cultural Revue, Conservative, amateur medievalist and historian, aspiring wife and mother. Follow me on Parler @AnastasiaCosmo

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