This is the day when voters raised on a reverence for democracy realize the utter disregard their leaders hold for that concept. The moment state and local officials around the country get elected, they stop caring about making it easy for their constituents to vote. Some do so deliberately, for partisan reasons, while others just don’t pay attention or decide they have bigger priorities. The result can be seen in the confusion, the breakdowns, and the agonizingly slow lines at thousands of precincts in almost every state.
As they stand in windswept, hour-long lines to cast a ballot, voters might ask themselves, why are there so few polling places and workers? Why isn’t the government making it easier for me to vote, rather than forcing me through an endurance contest?
Why can’t the New York City Board of Elections hire workers who understand the system that employs them? Why can’t officials in Cleveland and south Florida keep their voting machines working? Why is the election board in Pinellas County, Fl., sending out robo-calls saying people can vote until 7 p.m. Wednesday?
The reason for this is clear: making democracy efficient takes second place in the United States to the cherished notion of letting local officials run the election system. In this “hyper-decentralized system,” in the words of Richard Hasen, a voting expert at the University of California, Irvine, the process of voting is left in the hands of “volunteers or poorly paid workers, many of whom lack adequate training or formal expertise.”
Their supervisors are partisans, often making decisions about spending money on new machines or expanding the system on the basis of how it will affect their party. (Making it difficult to vote, particularly in urban areas, has become a national priority of the Republican party.) “The United States is almost alone among mature democracies in allowing the foxes to guard the henhouse,” Mr. Hasen writes in his new book, “The Voting Wars.”