With studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes in November, party leaders are beginning a push to make voting and voter registration easier, setting up a likely new conflict with Republicans over a deeply polarizing issue. White House officials have told congressional leaders that President Barack Obama plans to press for action on Capitol Hill. House and Senate Democrats have introduced bills that would require states to provide online voter registration and allow at least 15 days of early voting, among other things. Fourteen states are considering whether to expand early voting, including the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that advocates electoral change. Florida, New York, Texas and Washington are looking at whether to ease registration and establish preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Several recent polls and studies suggest that long waiting times in some places depressed voter turnout in the 2012 election and that lines were longest in cities, where Democrats outnumber Republicans. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted shortly after Election Day, 18 percent of Democrats said they had waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long in line to vote on average as whites. Florida had the nation’s longest lines, with a wait time of 45 minutes, followed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Charles Stewart, the political science professor who conducted the analysis.
A separate analysis, by an Ohio State University professor and The Orlando Sentinel, concluded that more than 200,000 voters in Florida “gave up in frustration” without voting.