Editorial

Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Making repairs

It’s become a cliché to announce that American politics is broken.

One fact about clichés is indisputable — they have to be true to take on the designation. There’s nothing deader than a doornail, and clichés should be avoided like the plague. And so, politics is due for some repairs.

Along with politics, our elections, the lynchpin of freedom and democracy, are under assault.

Imagine this: A presidential candidate, reading polls favoring his opponent, declares — yells, repeatedly — the whole process is rigged against him.

But he decides that isn’t true after he’s elected, and instead says millions of people who cast ballots for his opponent were not eligible to vote. He launches an investigation — ludicrous on its face — which disappears a few months later.

Since 2016, elections have been questioned, fought over and disparaged, and undeniable proof has been found of foreign government interference. Never again will an election be accepted by some as an honest count.

But there is healing this year, with early voting in New York State and Shelter Island.

Elections held in early November date to an America before the rise of cities when the main economic engine for the country was agriculture. By November, the harvest was in, and in the north, winter had yet to take hold to hinder transportation, and it seemed the optimum time to open the polls.

Plus, everyone voting on the same day made sense in 19th-century America. And unlike other democracies, which held elections on weekends, we’d vote on Tuesdays.

All this has changed, with encouraging results that with early voting and on weekends, more people will go to the polls and democracy is widened rather than narrowed.

On Shelter Island, early voting has been an unqualified success, with 489 Shelter Island voters casting ballots before Election Day, which is 19.75% of registered Island voters.

One long-shot risk of early voting is that your candidate is charged with a crime after you’ve cast your vote. But that is far outweighed by several positive results.

In addition to the convenience of voting at a time of your choosing — and place, since now registered Suffolk County voters can go the polls anywhere in the county — a lesson in our system of government can be passed on to generations coming along.

Those of us lucky enough to have parents who took us to the polls learned early the duties and privileges of citizenship, and that our parents were taking their roles seriously. We had the sense of a solemn, but happy occasion, a rare thing in most lives.

With early voting, especially on weekends, more parents can take their children to the polls when they vote to see our republic as a living organism. People who vote understand this, and feel a pleasurable sense of accomplishment after casting their ballots.

Broken, maybe, but something essential is being repaired with early voting.