As Americans prepare to vote Tuesday in dozens of tight elections, the two major political parties and interest groups across the ideological spectrum already have lawyered up for potential problems at the polls or with election results. On Election Day, armies of partisan attorneys and poll watchers will be at the ready at voting sites and in war rooms in almost every state, scrutinizing nearly every aspect of the voting process and prepared to spring into action if they see something that could adversely impact their candidate or cause. “The parties are well lawyered up,” said Richard Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law and political science professor and the author of “The Voting Wars: From 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” “It’s a tactic and a tool. It’s like an arms race.”
In his State of the Union address in February, President Barack Obama introduced Desiline Victor, who, at 102 years old, had waited in line three hours to vote in North Miami, Fla. The president lauded Ms. Victor’s commitment to democracy, but he left out a key fact about her hardship: Compared to some voters, she hadn’t stood in line all that long. In 2008, for example, students at Ohio’s Kenyon College waited as long as 10 hours to vote, with some casting ballots at 4 a.m. The 2000 election meltdown in Florida pulled the curtain back on our dysfunctional system of voting, offering a primer on just about everything wrong with American elections, from burdensome voter registration to faulty vote tabulation. The crisis inspired repeated efforts at reform. A few, such as the Help America Vote Act of 2002 — which, among other things, provided funds for better voting machines — even made a modest difference. Yet three presidential elections after the 2000 fiasco, the basic mechanics of our democracy remain deeply flawed. One reason so little has changed, clearly, is that plenty of powerful people prefer a system that makes it hard to vote. But there have been some real reforms in the states, many won with bipartisan support, and there is room for well-crafted compromises. Improving elections may not be easy, but it is possible.
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Attorney General Gary King is investigating what he is calling a “near meltdown of voting procedures” in Rio Rancho last week, when voters had to wait up to five hours to cast ballots. King’s office launched the “high-priority” investigation in response to complaints from legislators, concerned citizens and some of its own attorneys and staffers, spokesman Phil Sisneros said Monday. “We want to find out what caused the delays — who did what, when— and what is being done about it,” he said.