One of the big stories from last week’s election was long lines for the polls. It got really ugly in some places. In Fairfax County, Virginia, some voters had to wait on line until 10:30 at night to vote. In Miami, lines lasted as long as seven hours. Some voters in Florida cast their ballots for President after Mitt Romney began his concession speech. In Ohio, long lines plagued many voting districts.
The good news: people are fed up with it. A post-election survey conducted by the MacArthur Foundation found that 88 percent of Americans who voted last week support national voting standards, including polling hours and ballot design.
Another interesting outcome from the poll: more people are concerned about legitimate voters being turned away from the polls than are concerned about ineligible voters. (“Voters surveyed are more likely to express concern about “eligible voters being denied the opportunity to vote” (64 percent) than about “ineligible voters getting to vote (36 percent).”)
Maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally see momentum toward dealing with the problem. In fact, just today one Senator introduced legislation to create a federal grant program for states to improve their election administration. I think we’ll be seeing more on this in the coming months.
Also…to just try to wrap the long line story in a few more facts… Anecdotal stories aren’t necessarily the best way to gauge the extent of a problem. In fact, most American voters probably did not have intolerable waits. There’s actually some data about this from the 2008 election.
- 86 percent of voters waited 30 minutes or less to vote.
- 9 percent waited 30 to 60 minutes
- 5 percent waited more than an hour.
It’s worth noting that 5 percent of the electorate in 2008 means more than 6 million people.
The problem was worse for African-American voters. Twenty-seven percent of African Americans reported long waits to vote compared with 11 percent of whites.
It will be interesting to see what the 2012 survey results are….
FYI Photo is of voters waiting in line in Clarendon, Virginia, in 1924. You can see many of the voters holding posters supporting Democratic presidential candidate John W. Davis. He lost to Calvin Coolidge…which of course brings to mind Dorothy Parker’s famous quip about him when told he had died: “How could they tell?”
Image Source: Library of Congress