“I just want to vote! Why can’t I vote?” Like many others, the woman had come to this North County polling place after work. In her early 60s, she had one of her grandkids with her. She had identification. She said she had voted in St. Louis County in previous elections, and she had lived in St. Louis County her whole life. But she said it had been several years since she voted. She wasn’t in the system, so she was sent to a corner of the room known as the “solution center.” The solution center was simply the end of a table in a dimly lit corner of the polling place. Cluttered with affidavits and provisional ballots, four other voters already sat there, all awaiting their voting fates, and all African-American. One of the election supervisors at the polling place was trying to find a solution. Should they vote here? Should they vote somewhere else? Should they not vote at all? Should they fill out provisional ballots? The problem was not isolated to this handful of voters. A couple of voters per hour encountered similar problems, and more during peak hours. The situation almost always resulted in a call to the St. Louis County Election Board — which took forever.
Twenty minutes turned into 30 minutes, and 30 into 40. It was not uncommon for the election judge to be on hold for 45 minutes, waiting for the election board to respond. Meanwhile the voters waited also, after already waiting in line just to check in. And for some voters, it wasn’t even the first polling place they had been to.
Another woman in her 20s came to us after spending almost an hour at a different St. Louis County polling place. The first polling place told her that she needed to instead vote at our polling place. She drove to our polling place, waited in line, and was sent to the “solution center.” After almost another hour, the election board told her she needed to go back to the first polling place. By then, it was rush hour and the polls were about to close.
It should not be this difficult. These people are not trying to do anything wrong. They’re just trying to exercise their fundamental right to vote. If people are eligible to vote, they should be able to do so seamlessly. People move, and they sometimes forget to fill out change-of-address forms. But that shouldn’t throw a seemingly insurmountable wrench into the voting process.