Long Lines on Election Day: A Form of Voter Suppression?

For Immediate Release

Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858;
or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Long Lines on Election Day: A Form of Voter Suppression?



Norden is the director of the Voting Technology Project at the Brennan
Center for Justice. The Brennan Center, Common Cause and Verified
Voting recently issued a 50-state report card that grades each state on its preparedness for election system breakdowns.

Norden said today: "There's no question that in the last few years,
election officials around the country have made dramatic improvements
that will make it much less likely that voters are disenfranchised due
to voting system failures. Unfortunately, there is still much work to
be done to ensure that every voter will get to vote and every vote will
be counted if something goes wrong with voting systems on Election Day."

The report recommends: "Election officials [should] have backup
measures in place -- like emergency paper ballots and sound ballot
counting procedures -- to ensure the integrity of the vote. ... Of the
24 states that use voting machines, eight states, including Colorado
and Virginia, have no guidance or requirement to stock emergency paper
ballots at the polls. In contrast, 12 states, including Ohio and North
Carolina, recommend emergency paper ballots to be given to voters if
machine failures are causing long lines."


Fogel is the director of FairVote.
He said today: "FairVote surveyed 96 out of 134 Virginia city and
county election officials and found that the state does not have a
standardized method for allocating poll booths, which may cause long
lines on Election Day. Long lines are often caused by an inadequate
number of poll booths and have plagued voters, particularly in
lower-income neighborhoods, in the past several election cycles."

Fogel added: "Students hoping to vote on campus in Virginia may be
disappointed. Thirty-two of the jurisdictions surveyed have a community
college or university and of those, only two will have on-campus
polling locations for November." Previous state readiness reports
prepared by FairVote include Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado.


Wilson is a co-director of Save Our Votes.
She said today: "The 2004 and 2006 general elections in Maryland were
accompanied by very long lines, with voters in some locations waiting
for hours to vote. Many may leave without having the opportunity to
cast a ballot, or may decide not to go to the polls when they hear news
reports of long lines. Measures that could ease election-day
congestion, such as early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, have
been blocked by Maryland's courts. A study by physicist William
Edelstein predicts that many Maryland polling places could again
experience wait times of greater than two hours this November."

Wilson added: "The best way to ensure an efficient election and to
avoid disenfranchising voters would be for Maryland's State Board of
Elections to authorize the use of emergency ballots to prevent or
reduce long lines. Other states, such as Ohio, have already taken this
prudent step to ensure that all voters will be able to cast a ballot on
election day."


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