To the Editor,
Today we should be welcoming Helena Foulkes as the incoming Democratic nominee for governor of Rhode Island. Why? Because she won the election-day vote …
To the Editor,
Today we should be welcoming Helena Foulkes as the incoming Democratic nominee for governor of Rhode Island. Why? Because she won the election-day vote tally.
So what, you might ask. Governor McKee won the overall vote count after the mail-in ballots were counted.
Here's the "so what." Mail-in ballots are sent in long before Election Day; long before candidates have the opportunity to get their message across to voters. So, for the most part, those who vote by mail-in ballots well ahead of Election Day are voting blind.
Historically, candidates' messages aren't focused, well publicized, or really listened to until the final week or days before Election Day. Voters who vote ahead of time through mail-in ballots never get to consider candidates' final pitches--messages that truly define who they are and what they stand for.
This election for governor proves the point. Back when most early voters were submitting mail-in ballots, Governor McKee was leading Helena Foulkes in the polls by double digits. Primarily because voters had not begun to closely listen to candidates, her message had yet to resonate with voters. McKee, having the advantage of incumbency, was so far ahead of Foulkes in the polls that most voters considered her campaign a lost cause. So, mail-in voters submitted their ballots in the dark before Foulkes' message was heard by the voters.
Fast forward to the last week or two of the gubernatorial campaign and suddenly Foulkes' message began to get through to voters. In fact, it apparently changed so many voters' minds that more of them voted for her on Election Day than voted for McKee.
If only those who submitted mail-in ballots had held off until a week or so before election day and had the opportunity to hear the message that turned voters away from McKee and in favor of Foulkes, then Helena Foulkes would have the nomination.
It is a generally accepted fact that incumbents always enjoy an advantage over opponents. That is, until the final week or two of an election campaign when voters actually begin to listen to candidates; when voters can consider debate results and last minute statements of intentions by opposing candidates; and can then contrast the record of the incumbent with the platforms of his opponents.
Unfortunately, voters who have already submitted mail-in ballots can't then change their votes--even if the final campaign efforts of a candidate have caused them to change their minds and regret their mail-in votes.
What's the solution? It's simple. Change our election laws so that mail-in ballots cannot be postmarked more than a week before Election Day, with exceptions for military and voters temporarily out of the state.
There's a reason our forefathers designed and implemented an electoral system that depended on citizens voting on Election Day, not ahead of time. The reason was to ensure fairness to all candidates to allow them to get their messages across to voters right up to the last day of the campaign, and to ensure that voters have the opportunity to hear candidates' messages, also right up to the last day of the campaign.
It's the American way and we need to return to it.
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