TODAY marks the end of the early voting period, an increasingly popular option among voters.
Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick has been reporting bustling activity in the Voter's Registration office in downtown Charleston since Oct. 12. That's where the early birds must go to cast ballots.
Alas, I was not among them.
I voted early once, a couple of years ago, just to see what it was like. It was an impressively efficient operation. I was a little bothered that no one asked me to verify my identity, but that doesn't happen at my precinct either.
Since then, I have reverted to voting at my neighborhood school on Election Day.
After many years of working for a daily newspaper, I am deadline addicted.
I also like the ritual. Election Day feels like a holiday, even though it's a very long workday for newspapers.
It's the culmination of months of anticipation, like finally getting to cut into the turkey or open the presents under the tree.
Waiting also lets me put off making decisions about certain races. Perhaps a candidate in a hotly contested race will say or do something that sways me in the last few days.
On the other hand, the Daily Mail finished announcing its candidate endorsements more than a week ago. Our editorial board always has voted early, in a sense. That's because we make those endorsements as a service to readers.
We're not telling people how to vote. We're just reporting what the editorial board recommends after a vetting process.
For weeks we devote precious time to meeting with candidates. We talk with them about issues and try to get to know them, especially the newcomers.
We also study background material, such as previous news stories and candidate bios. Finally we get our heads together and come up with consensus choices. Some races are easy; some are agonizing.
Consensus is a key word. It's unlikely the ballot cast by any single board member perfectly matches the newspaper's list of endorsements. We respect each other's privacy and keep that to ourselves.
Regular readers are aware of the newspaper's editorial philosophy, and we assume they take that into account when judging our endorsements. We believe in small government that respects individuals' liberty, and we believe economic growth helps more people, faster, than growth in government.
However, our choices are not purely philosophical.
We also assess intelligence and character.
A candidate's positions on today's burning issues are important. Also crucial is this question: Is this someone who can be counted on to think clearly on the next, unforeseen issue?