Can Voting Be Fixed? Associations Struggle With Answers
Long lines at polling places on November 6 showed that U.S. voting processes could use a tune-up. But organizations that might help craft solutions can’t agree on how to fix it.
President Obama acknowledged the problem in his Election Night victory speech:
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that,” he said.
Defining exactly what that is gets a little tricky.
“Long lines are not caused by one thing, they’re caused by lots of things,” said Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of State Election Directors. “What causes problems in one state, or even three or four different parts of one state, can be different from every other state.”
Still, many groups are lining up to provide blanket solutions.
“All of the groups in Washington that work on voting rights have seized this opportunity to put forth our agenda for reform,” Susannah Goodman, director of the national campaign for election reform for Common Cause, said in a recent USA TODAY article.
Voters’ rights groups have proposed expanding early voting, streamlining voter registration, and allowing voters to receive absentee ballots without restrictions. Most of these proposals are included in the Voter Empowerment Act introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) earlier this year.
State election directors are doing their part to investigate problems in their jurisdictions and to determine what they can and can’t fix.
Solutions might include more electronic polling books and more widespread early voting, said Lewis. However, “some of these [solutions] cost money, and being able to get either the federal government or local governments to spend money has always been a problem.”
Part of the issue might also be high expectations on the part of the voter, Lewis said. And maybe a little impatience.
“The expectation is that you should wait no longer than 30 minutes in order to exercise your right to vote,” he said. “Yet we wait for more than 30 minutes in almost any other part of our daily lives.”