For Immediate Release
Voting in 2008: A Close Look At Voting Preparedness in 10 Swing States
WASHINGTON - As
election officials brace for record-breaking voter turnout on Election
Day, a close examination of voting preparedness in 10 swing states
shows that significant problems in the basic functions of the American
election administration system persist, and in a few cases have
worsened over the last few years, a new report by Common Cause and The
Century Foundation shows.
The report, "Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States," examined what, if any, progress has been made since 2006 in seven battleground states: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In addition, Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia, whose new status as likely swing states, and the potential for election administration difficulties, have also been included.
The areas looked at include: voter
registration, voter identification, caging and challenges, deceptive
practices, provisional ballots, voting machine allocation, poll worker
recruitment and training, voter education and student voting rights.
Results are mixed. Florida, Georgia and Virginia
stand out as the states with the most problematic voting administration
on a variety of criteria. This is especially worrisome in Virginia
given its new status as a key battleground state. Wisconsin
gets the most positive review overall for its good poll worker training
standards, excellent machine allocation standards, a solid deceptive
practices law and clear student voting rights. Ohio,
which in 2004 was the poster child for problems such as hours-long
lines to vote and voter challenges, is much improved, according to the
report, with a policy now to better handle challenges to voters,
excellent poll worker training standards and good information provided
to voters. New Mexico and Pennsylvania get mixed reviews for still having shortcomings such as no deceptive practices law, but good poll worker training standards. Colorado, Michigan and Missouri fall somewhere in the middle.
some states have taken steps to improve their election procedures,
several still have a number of structural and statutory weaknesses that
put voting rights at risk once again this year," said Tova Wang, Common
Cause's vice president, a Century Foundation fellow and the report's
author. "In an election that we hope and expect will see unprecedented
turnout, we are hopeful that steps can still be taken to make the
election process a fair one for all Americans."
hundreds of thousands of new voters have been added to the registration
rolls just in the last few months, one troubling finding is that
problems with voter registration issues in many instances have
gone unaddressed, or even worsened in the surveyed states. Many states
have flawed procedures for matching the information voters give them
when they register with other state databases, and some have no
established protocols for doing so at all. Uniquely, Florida will
continue to require that prospective voters prove eligibility by
providing the exact information that appears on existing state
databases. This policy often results in rejections of valid registered
voters if the voter provides a variant of his or her name instead of a
full name, a clerical error is made on the election administration
side, or a voter makes another minor mistake.
machine allocation - which can contribute to long lines at the polls,
another common problem of the last two elections - also remains
troublesome in many of the states. Most have weak or no allocation
laws, allowing each locality to decide how many voting machines are
necessary at each polling place. For example, Pennsylvania, where voters waited on long lines in 2006, has no allocation law, nor does Michigan. Wisconsin has the best one of the states reviewed, according to the report
ID rules and requirements also remain problematic. Despite
ever-mounting evidence that fraud committed at the polls by voters is
extremely rare, fraud is still routinely used as a justification for
passing harsh voter ID laws that result in disenfranchisement,
especially among minorities, young people, the elderly and the poor.
Georgia and Florida have the worst of them. And even with states
without strict ID rules, there is reason to worry that poll workers and
voters will misunderstand the rules leading to disenfranchisement.
problem in 2006 was state laws made it too easy to challenge a voter on
a slim basis. The most famous example of this was the challenge to
35,000 voters' eligibility to vote in Ohio prior to Election Day. There
are already indications that with all the new voters registering,
challenges to eligibility will be a major issue again this year. None
of the seven states reviewed in this report have changed their laws
since 2006 to lessen the chances of this occurring, and of the three
new states included, Colorado and New Mexico have acceptable, though
not ideal provisions to handle challenges to voters, while Virginia's
is fairly troubling.
progress has also been made, particularly in Ohio. Though still
flawed, the state did improve its law of handling challenges to voters
in 2006, and the law that has been clarified in a positive direction by
the secretary of state. Secretary Jennifer Brunner has also, through
policy directive, done much to address the state's potential machine
allocation issues. Ohio also now has good poll worker training
standards, including an online program, does a good job educating
voters about polling place information and registration and has a pilot
program to automatically update voter registration information.