There was confusion about a voter ID law in Pennsylvania, widespread use of provisional ballots in Ohio and problems for college students voting in Florida on Election Day. But the systematic, widespread voter disenfranchisement that some voting rights advocates had feared didn’t come to fruition in 2012. Instead, advocates said the largest issue for voters on Election Day was the problem of long lines at overwhelmed polling places, including locations in several key swing states like Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and Florida. President Barack Obama even raised the issue in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, thanking voters who “waited in line for a very long time” and adding “we have to fix that.”
Voting rights advocates suggested this week that preventative lawsuits had mostly neutered the effects of restrictive voting laws created in recent years. Lawsuits filed by the Justice Department and civil rights organizations prevented voter ID laws from going into effect in Texas, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, several less-restrictive laws were allowed to go forward in states like Virginia and New Hampshire.
While the Election Protection coalition said there was widespread confusion among voters and poll workers about what exactly Pennsylvania’s voter ID does, it wasn’t the dominant issue on Tuesday. The coalition’s hotline solicited hundreds of complaints regarding enforcement of the voter ID law, but many were from voters who wrongly believed that poll workers were not allowed to ask them for photo identification.
“Voter ID has been the story for the last two years basically, but I think partly because of actions that people took to knock those laws out, it wasn’t the story of the 2012 election itself,” Eric Marshall, co-director of Election Protection, told TPM on Wednesday morning.
Instead, advocates pointed to the long lines as a form of voter disenfranchisement, noting they often happened at polling locations with heavily minority populations. Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the lines in some parts of the country “are longer than the lines in Baghdad and Kabul,” according to Reuters. The Miami Herald reported that some Florida voters remained in line at polling places until 1 a.m., hours after the polls were scheduled to close.