Vote ... but please not too early

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Last week, we wrote an editorial encouraging our readers to vote. This week, we are writing an editorial encouraging you to wait!

Absentee ballots were mailed out last week, and those ballots can now be used by any registered voter who wants to vote early for any reason.

That has proved to be a boon for certain political parties and certain candidates, whose well-organized campaigns can sometimes stockpile a huge number of votes prior to Election Day.

But unless you are a diehard voter who can’t be persuaded to change your mind no matter how much new information comes to light, voting early is really just a fool’s errand.

The period from May 13 to June 5 is an eternity in politics. Anything might happen to change your opinion about one or more of the candidates on the ballot, but if you have already voted, you have lost your chance to make an informed decision.

Case in point was the special election last year to find a replacement for Congressman Ryan Zinke after he was tapped to be secretary of the interior. Democrat Rob Quist was running a dogged campaign against Republican Greg Gianforte, but had an uphill battle getting traction in a state that gave President Trump a 20-point victory. But when news broke the day before the election that Gianforte had “body-slammed” a reporter, the race might well have been turned on its head.

Except, of course, that thousands of votes had already been cast — many of which might have flipped to Quist if the voters had waited till Election Day to make their choice. Gianforte won the race to the surprise of some observers.

There have been many other instances of late developments in election races that could and should be considered by voters — whether it’s learning about a local candidate’s bankruptcy or finding out that a U.S. Senate candidate considers herself a witch — but if you send in your ballot too early, you can’t make the most informed choice, and that hurts us all.

So, while we encourage all Montana citizens to do their civic duty and vote, we hope you will do so in a way that is most responsible. Vote early if you have no other choice, but vote as close to Election Day as possible in order to lessen the chance that you will regret your vote when it is counted.

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To help our readers make an informed decision, the Daily Inter Lake is happy to include a special section inside today’s paper with candidates’ answers to questions posed by this newspaper and the Montana Free Press. Included are candidates in contested races for Flathead County commissioner, sheriff and justice of the peace, as well as U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

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