WASHINGTON – Long lines,broken machines and untrained poll workers may not be a thing of the past. Two reports have examined these issues and more to make states aware about what they can improve for midterm elections.
Released Tuesday,this report analyzed 10 swing states and whether they have improved since the 2012 election or what they still need to work on. The analysis was done in these swing states because elections are expected to be particularly close and because more voters may turn up than at most midterm elections.
“No one state that we reviewed failed to implement any of the recommendations,but no one state implemented them all,either. We imagine that this is true for the rest of the states,” said Allegra Chapman,director of voting and election at Common Cause and co-author of the report,“Did We Fix That?”
Common Cause analyzed recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration,established in 2013 to improve voters’ experiences.
Colorado was the most “satisfactory” of the 10 states in adopting the commission’s19 recommendations.
Colorado has done the most since 2012 to provide the most options for voters – voting in person,dropping a ballot in the mail or in a secure drop-off location and allowing voters to register and vote on the same day.
“These reforms allow voters a number of options and not obstacles and should be emulated across the country,” Chapman said.
This Pew Charitable Trusts report evaluated election performance for 2008 and 2012,including wait times for voters in all 50 states.
Rhode Island had a five-minute wait time in 2008,which went up to 12 minutes in 2012.
“We’ve taken steps for this election to help voters get through the line – giving instructions to poll workers to tell voters to have their ID ready,making sure they are in the correct line and making sure the voters are in the right place to vote,” Miguel Nunez,planning specialist for the Rhode Island Board of Elections,said.
Montana’s wait time in 2008 was six minutes and went up to 16 minutes in 2012. Florida had a wait time of 28 minutes in 2008,which rose to 45 minutes in 2012.
“After working with the legislature in 2013,effective and historic changes to elections laws now give Florida’s voters more access. This included increasing voting hours and expanding early voting locations,” Brittany Lesser,communications director for the Florida Department of State,said in a statement.
Lisa Kimmet,deputy for the Montana Elections Division,said that the ballot for the 2012 election had five issues that were lengthy and complex.
“This year’s ballot only has two issues,so we aren’t anticipating long wait times,” she said. “We have had practice training with all counties on how polling places should be set up,we will set up check-ins and have an app that lets voters see where they should vote based on where they are registered.”
The Common Cause report also dealt with long waits.
“This report is a tool for election officials to look at and fix their own process,specifically long lines on election day,” Stephen Spaulding,policy counsel at Common Cause and co-author of the report,said. “Adopting some of these recommendations wouldn’t cost an exorbitant amount of money – such as online voter registration would actually save money in the long run.”
One of the recommendations was to expand opportunities for early voting or no-fault absentee voting.
The report rated Alaska,Arkansas,Florida,North Carolina and Pennsylvania unsatisfactory for not providing online voter registration.
The presidential commission recommended that states adopt online voter registration and improve the way voter registration agencies,including departments of motor vehicles,sync driver’s license registration data with statewide voter registration lists.
The commission said instructions for using voting machines needed to be in plain language,and the machines should work. All states scored unsatisfactory for this recommendation. Spaulding said that some machines were found to be running on 2005 technology.
“If we keep allowing this,the machines will break down catastrophically,” he said.
Poll worker need better training and should be recruited from public and private sector employees,high schools and colleges,the commission said.
Chapman said poll workers need to be properly trained by election day,and training for poll workers needs to be standardized statewide. This will prevent confusion among voters,over such things as what kind of ID is needed.
“The failure of providing bilingual poll workers needs to also be taken into account since our demographics are rapidly changing. We need to make sure that these polls are accessible to all regardless of voters’ fluency,” Chapman said.
Reach reporter Lorain Watters at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.