I like voting in person because too much of our politics are experienced alone. We listen to talk radio or political podcasts alone in our cars. We sit alone in our living rooms, bombarded by political commercials and watching talking heads argue.

I’m an old-fashioned voter.

I like voting in person on Election Day. I smile at the folks holding signs outside the polling place, and sometimes stop to chat. I often see people I know. Some I expect will vote like me, others probably not. They all get a smile and a cheerful greeting. We’re neighbors, after all.

I greet the election officials with another cheery smile. We’ve been meeting like this for years. I can feel the political drama climaxing as I cast my ballot, then, with hope and dread, I await the results.

That’s not how more and more people are voting, though. With Election Day weeks away, people are already voting in 10 states and soon will be in 19 more. In three states – Oregon, Washington and Colorado – there are no polling places. Everyone has to vote by mail.

I understand efforts to boost voter turnout, which is lower for the U.S. than in most developed countries. But making voting easier hasn’t done much for voter turnout. In the last midterm election, four years ago, just 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. It was the lowest voter turnout in 70 years.

I like voting in person because too much of our politics are experienced alone. We listen to talk radio or political podcasts alone in our cars. We sit alone in our living rooms, bombarded by political commercials and watching talking heads argue.

There’s not much face-to-face in our politics. Voters are caught in their media bubbles, surrounded by people who agree with them. We may be intensely engaged in the arguments, but we leave the actual arguing to the candidates and the pundits.

Engaging voters face-to-face allows us to see the similarities that unite us as well as the differences that divide. We may not change each other’s votes, but we can find common ground on some issues and build the respect between citizens a successful democracy requires.

One of the most encouraging things I’ve seen in my election year travels is the energy around Beto O’Rourke’s challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. It’s not just that I’m glad to see someone stand up to the slippery Cruz, or that a purple Texas is more interesting than a deep red one. It’s not just that I, like many others who’ve seen him on the stump, have been impressed by O’Rourke’s intelligence, charisma and energy. He starts his campaign day by inviting voters to join him on his 6 a.m. run and talks to voters until late at night, even during his long drives between stops, which he streams on his Facebook page.

For years, political experts in both parties have advised candidates to focus on raising money, mobilizing the base, and micro-targeting subsets of the electorate with customized pitches. Congress members are expected to spend at least four hours every day in small Capitol Hill apartments working as telemarketers, calling big donors for contributions. I’ve heard DC-based consultants argue against lawn signs, a campaign staple, because they might mobilize the wrong voters.

O’Rourke, a three-term Congressman from El Paso, opened his campaign by pledging to refuse contributions from political action committees and promising to visit every one of Texas’ 254 counties. That includes sparsely-settled and heavily Republican places the experts say aren’t worth a Democrat’s time. O’Rourke rejected that advice and kept his promise. He campaigned in places that are barely on the map, speaking with – and listening to – people who have never voted for a Democrat and maybe never will.

But he earned voters’ respect in those towns, and probably some votes. The good thing about Senate races is there is no Electoral College distorting the process. A vote in tiny Valentine is as valuable as one in sprawling Houston.


It’s not just the voters O’Rourke is going after. Texas has one of the lowest political participate rates in the country, with just 28.5 percent turnout in the last midterm. “Texas isn’t a red state or a blue state,” O’Rourke says, “it’s a nonvoting state.”


The same can be said of a lot of other places, and some of those DC experts like it that way. One of the saddest of America’s divisions is that one party wants to make it easier to vote, the other wants to make it harder. One wants more people to vote, the other wants only certain kinds of voters to make it to the polls.


Voting should be something that brings us together, not just another struggle for partisan advantage. We should be able to build a broad consensus around securing elections from both voter fraud and foreign interference, around getting everyone to cast a ballot, not just the people who agree with you.

Let’s resolve to talk about it in a constructive way, face to face, when we see each other at the polls Nov. 6.

— Rick Holmes can be reached at rick@rickholmes.net. You can follow his journey at www.rickholmes.net. Like him on Facebook at Holmes & Co, on follow him on Twitter @HolmesAndCo.