“We Have To Fix That”
Last Tuesday night, newly-reelected President Obama gave a shoutout to voters across the country who had waited hours to cast their ballots, and said of the long lines that many Americans were stuck in, “By the way, we have to fix that.” For Common Cause and it’s partners in Election Protection efforts during one of the most confusing and hostile election seasons in recent memory, this was heartening to hear.
If the President is serious about fixing our broken election system, he’ll have a lot of work to do. A new post by Wendy R. Weiser at the Brennan Center outlines key steps to take–modernizing our outdated voter registration system, enforcing uniform standards in all 50 states to minimize disenfranchisement and confusion, and investing in poll workers and infrastructure to ensure every vote is counted.
The post also calls attention to voter ID laws, and other direct attacks on voting rights we saw this election season:
The battles over voter ID caused confusion and harm even in states that did not pass new requirements. Voters from many states, including Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, reported being inappropriately asked for ID or turned away if they did not have it.
In other words, despite the dramatic string of victories pushing back against most new restrictive voting laws this year, efforts to limit voting still hurt voters. It is simply wrong for politicians to manipulate the rules of elections to make it harder for some Americans to participate. Unfortunately, the push to make it harder to vote shows no signs of abating. We have to fix that, too.
To do so, we need strong courts willing to protect basic voting rights, as they did this year. We need more clear-sighted state legislators who are willing to stand up for what is right. And we need more clear sighted citizens to tell their legislators, “Enough is enough.”
America dodged a bullet this year when the presidency was decided by a wide enough margin that litigation was not an option. But we did come perilously close to a nightmare situation in a handful of states where the presidential election could have been thrown into the courts and where the outcome of the election could have turned on these problems. If we don’t fix them now, that could happen next time.
Meanwhile, long lines and other election day snafus have received plenty of attention in the press, like in this story from Washington Post:
Another reason that many polling stations had long waits Tuesday was that they were simply ill-prepared, said Mary Boyle of Common Cause. Stations ran out of ballots. Their machines broke down. The poll workers were unprepared. “We had reports of stations where people were voting on one machine when 10 were supposed to be working,” she said. Likewise, said Pamela Smith of VerifiedVoting, many states use older machines that are prone to glitches — when they break, that bogs down everything.
While it’s understandable that the rest of the nation doesn’t want to have to think about elections for a long time, Common Cause and its partners will be working year-round to make sure that voters in 2014, 2016, and beyond won’t face the same problems they did this year.