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Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:37 PM

The Real Reasons You Waited Hours in Line to Vote

The Real Reasons You Waited Hours in Line to Vote

An Obama campaign legal adviser explains the humiliating meltdown in voting we saw around the country during this year's presidential election.

In the coming months, proposals will abound for election reforms to address the embarrassment to American democracy -- and the indignity to citizens -- of 8-hour lines to vote. But what, precisely, accounts for these lines in places like Prince William County and the Norfolk and Hampton areas of Virginia, or Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties in Florida? As a Senior Legal Advisor to the Obama campaign with responsibility for these and other voting issues, I want to share the knowledge the campaign's thousands of observers on the ground generated about the underlying causes.

These causes can be grouped into three categories. I will focus specifically on Virginia, but the causes are largely similar, if not identical, elsewhere.

1. Excessive Local Control and Money Problems. Oddly enough, administration of national elections is largely run and financed not at the national level or the state level but at the local government level. Virginia has 134 local government units. Each has its own electoral board and essentially makes its own decisions about how many voting machines to buy and how much to invest in maintaining the machines. (A statewide board of elections exists, but it has almost no role on these machine issues.) Because local governments are primarily funded through local taxes -- particularly property taxes -- poorer counties and independent cities, with low tax bases, have fewer resources from the outset to devote to all public goods, including voting equipment. State law does impose minimal levels of machines per capita, but these requirements are so low as to be close to meaningless. In addition to resource-strapped local governments not being able to provide sufficient machines, lack of money leads to maintenance being put off and older machines staying in service too long. In Virginia, which holds an election every year (state and local elections alternate with ones for federal offices), this problem is exacerbated. The level of machine breakdown on Election Day is shockingly high, even if utterly predictable.

<...>

2. Checking In to Vote and Voting. Voting has become increasingly complex, both technologically and legally. Yet the poll workers who run the process are temporary volunteers paid $100 a day. They serve episodically and cannot develop much expertise; they tend to be older and less technologically knowledgeable; they are mostly not lawyers, but must adapt, with minimal training, to constantly changing election laws. To give you a sense of contrast, the Obama campaign had lawyers available at key polling locations to make sure poll workers were applying the law properly; these lawyers had received 2.5 hours of training and had 3-inch thick binders with the relevant election laws.

<...>

3. Absence of Valves to Release Pressure. Whether or not these other problems are fixed, we also need at least two release valves to take pressure off of Election Day. First, when lines get long, election officials should be required to distribute paper ballots. This requirement would compensate for too few machines at high-demand sites and for machine breakdowns (though it would not solve problems associated with checking in). In Virginia, as the extraordinary length of the lines became clear during election day, the state Democratic Party sought to persuade local and state election officials to distribute paper ballots, then went to court, unsuccessfully, to pursue this option. Paper ballots can help with high-turnout surprises on election day.

- more -

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/the-real-reasons-you-waited-hours-in-line-to-vote/265446/

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Reply The Real Reasons You Waited Hours in Line to Vote (Original post)
ProSense Nov 2012 OP
nc4bo Nov 2012 #1
ProSense Nov 2012 #2
nc4bo Nov 2012 #4
msanthrope Nov 2012 #3
hrmjustin Nov 2012 #5

Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:49 PM

1. Ok, so they've jotted down some reasons, it's been done before I'm sure - many times.

It's always the are we going to do about it question that never seems to have an answer.

FFS - we're supposed to be the country others look up to, that shiny beacon blah-blah but we can't even trust our electoral process and the same crap happens over and over again.


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Response to nc4bo (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:54 PM

2. Wonder if they know about Anonymous and Rove?

We have Republicans in offices where they don't belong.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to kill the nation's oldest same-day voter registration law
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/20/1163469/-Wisconsin-Gov-Scott-Walker-wants-to-kill-the-nation-s-oldest-same-day-voter-registration-law

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Response to ProSense (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:35 PM

4. I'm listening to Rachel talking about this and Husted's plan to split Ohio's electoral votes



It never ever stops with these 'turds.

We have to know that just talking about it does nothing.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:54 PM

3. Much the same of what I saw in Philly--local fuckups.

We don't have standardized voting protocols--it's way too local, and way too easy to have the incompetence of one person screw the process for many.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 10:29 PM

5. K&R!

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