Every big election year, horror stories surface around the South and the rest of the country of voters having to wait for hours to cast their ballots. In 2008, reports came out of Georgia of voters having to stand in line for up to 12 hours to vote. In 2012, the battleground state of Florida garnered national headlines with accounts of voters waiting six hours at the polls. In 2013, President Obama assembled a 10-member bipartisan commission to look into the experiences of voters in the previous year’s elections and to propose solutions to help streamline the voting process. The commission found that the Florida and Georgia experiences weren’t isolated: More than 10 million people had to wait more than half an hour to vote in 2012. Arguing that “no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote,” the group outlined a series of ways election officials could make voting easier, saying that “jurisdictions can solve the problem of long lines through a combination of planning … and the efficient allocation of resources.” Yet despite a flurry of election law bills at the state level, many states have failed to act on the commission’s proposals and make improvements to ensure long wait times don’t taint the 2014 mid-term elections.
In some cases like North Carolina — which will feature one of the key races to decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate — lawmakers have gone the opposite direction, curtailing the number of early voting days. A study highlighted by the American Civil Liberties Union, drawing on the research of two scholars who have studied the impact of curtailing early voting, estimates that 18,000 North Carolina voters would have given up on voting due to long waits if the cuts to early voting enacted by the state legislature in 2013 had been in effect for the 2012 elections.
This month, the Brennan Center in New York released a new report adding fresh data to the debate over what causes long lines, which voters are most affected, and what can be done about it. Looking at the states of Florida, Maryland and South Carolina, the Brennan Center study finds that how voting resources are allocated is a big factor in determining who has to wait in line.
Full Article: Waiting at the polls: Long lines and voting rights.