The advent of online voting has changed the nature of the All-Star Game election. Changed how? One, it's bigger. Two, it's better.
In the past, once upon a time, way back when, somewhere between the dinosaurs and the computer, fan balloting was conducted primarily at ballparks. The electorate was obviously limited in scope, and the process had a built-in bias toward players from franchises with the largest crowds.
But now, this same election has become an exercise in global, participatory democracy. The potential electorate is enormous. Even the actual electorate is enormous.
The total of all the individual votes for the starting players in the All-Star balloting of 2011 was a record-setting 327.5 million. For the sake of perspective, the U.S. presidential election of 2008 had more than 125 million votes cast. And that was considered a high-turnout election.
The All-Star voting has become huge, but this is not, as we all recognize, a matter simply of quantity. You will read some pundits who annually complain about the baseball public's decisions in the votes for the starting-position players. Everybody can have his or her own quibble regarding the election and the subsequent selections to the All-Star rosters. No matter how much the rosters have been expanded, there still exists a surplus of deserving players. This is one of the beauties of the whole deal.
You may have found yourself in a voting booth in a conventional election, thinking, "OK, the lesser of two evils." But the choices before the voters in the All-Star election are pure gold compared to that standard.
And the All-Star electorate now is, as a group, a better judge of All-Star talent than its smaller, more homogenous predecessors were. Instead of having the balloting dominated by voters from big-market franchises, today's voter can be a baseball fan from almost anywhere, as long as he or she has the motivation to vote, and some kind of device that gives him or her Internet access.
Fans can cast their votes for starters, up to 25 times, at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Proof of the greater equality in these elections arrived again last year. The two league-leading vote-getters were Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. Yes, there could have been other choices, there always could be, but reasonable people can agree that Bautista and Braun were reasonable choices.
Beyond that, the support for Bautista indicated that Canadians weren't the only people paying close attention to his exploits. And the support for Braun had to be broad as well as deep, because the Brewers play in the smallest media market in the Major Leagues. So the available evidence keeps piling up on the side of the notion that the cyberspace electorate is at least as knowledgeable and perhaps, overall, a bit more objective than its ancestors were.
The 2012 All-Star Game will have at least its fair share of fascinating races/arguments at individual positions.
True, we can't know the precise scope of these debates before the candidates' first-half performances are recorded. But gaze, for instance, at the candidates for just one position: first base in the American League. A field that already had Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Eric Hosmer, etc., added over the winter Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. With a pardon asked of the other worthy first-base candidates not mentioned here, you could have three AL All-Star teams and still not have enough spots available for deserving first basemen.
Or how about the three outfield spots in the NL? I counted 12 players, who, if they delivered just typical performances in the first half of the 2012 season, would merit a spot on an All-Star team. Your own list could find fewer, but then again, it could find more.
We sometimes take for granted the right to vote in political elections, although that right remains both a core value and a privilege. But the right to vote online for the All-Star Game starters, that's new enough and expanding rapidly enough, that it cannot be taken for granted. As they say in Chicago, vote early, vote often.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.