As the 2016 election season lurches to a close, millions of voters have already cast their ballots. Most states allow early voting now, though the rules vary. In most cases early voting begins anywhere from 10 to 30 days before Election Day, and stops anywhere from one to three days before Election Day. Sometimes the rules even vary by county.
It’s no surprise, then, that people from different parts of the country have been comparing notes about their early voting experience. In those parts of the Internet that I frequent, one trend has already become clear. Most of them don’t write “I voted early.” No, the majority of people have been writing “I early voted.”
This baffles me. These people are otherwise fluent in English. They would never write “I early awoke today,” or “I early left.” So why are they tossing aside standard grammar when they write about voting?
When I first saw this, I objected strongly. But hold on a moment. I also could have strongly objected. So I had to ask myself why the word order matters for doing something early but not for doing something strongly. This doesn’t even get into the area of split infinitives, because we’re talking about the past tense here, not the infinitive “to vote.”
The best explanation I can come up with for objecting is, “That isn’t how we do things around here.” Unfortunately, that kind of rule is very easy to change. When enough people do something, then that becomes how we do things around here.
So writing “I voted early” may go the way of writing thank-you notes, arriving on time and other quaint relics of civilization. Then again, I live in a state that does not allow me to vote early or to early vote. So for now I don’t have to deal with it.