Top 5 Things That Might Keep You From Voting

Election '08

Enormous efforts have been made by campaigns and public interest groups to register people to vote on November 4th. According to the Election Assistance Commission more than 2 million poll workers will be working at over 200,000 polling places this election. Unfortunately, what these new voters don't know is that just registering to vote may not ensure that they are able to vote on Election Day or that their vote will be counted. Here are the top 5 ways that voters will be disenfranchised before and on Election Day.

1. Twenty-seven states close their voter registration the first week of October; another 12 will follow shortly thereafter. Too many states continue to cut off registration just as most people are beginning to tune into the election. Election Day Registration (EDR) in nine states (Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, North Carolina) has demonstrated that it is an efficient and problem-free way for 10-12% more citizens to participate on Election Day.
2. The Social Security Administration is shutting down its database, the one needed to verify registrations for people without state-issued IDS for three days in mid-October. This "routine maintenance" putting in jeopardy the ability of forty-one, slow moving states to verify millions of new registrants in time for Election Day for voters without state-issued IDs. (Here is a letter sent by the National Association of Secretaries of State asking the SSAS to move the maintenance until after November.) Millions of people may have properly filled out their registration forms but not make it onto the roles if this maintenance continues as scheduled.
3. Voter Purge, a report released from the Brennan Center for Justice this week reveals that, "election officials across the country are routinely striking millions of voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation." Millions of names will be struck from voter registration roles in advance of the November 4th election - and your name is struck in error you won't know until you show up at the polls - and it's too late to change it.
4. As I have written before, the new machines are no better than the old machines which were much worse than hand ballots. During the primary season, municipalities were testing optical scan machines, and many failed. Others have been furiously buying new machines that won't be tested before November 4th. The new machines are no better than the old machines which were much worse than hand ballots. How many times will we hear on election night that votes have been cast and lost or just plain lost? Moreover, how many elections are we going to keep hearing this?
5. You remember those pictures form 2004 and 2006 of voters waiting for hours to cast their ballots - up to 12 hours in some cases in the rain and cold. Our voting system is a mechanical engineer's nightmare. The biggest bottleneck in the process of voting is checking in to ensure that voters are registered to vote - this is a human interaction that is slow and tedious. It's the same reason that the lines at Starbucks are so long. I spoke to a person in the registrar's office in Fairfax County, VA who told me that they had increased the number of recruited poll workers from 2,600 in 2004 to 3,100 this year, with more to come by the deadline on Monday. Monday coincides with the voter registration deadline in Virginia which has already seen an almost 6% increase in voter registration statement from January -September 15th. But here's the real problem: There is no way to know until Election Day if they will a) show up, b) been adequately trained for the job and c) are enough of them to account for the expected surge in voting in critical voting areas like Cuyahoga County, OH, Palm Beach County, FL.

So register to vote -- and then cross your fingers that you your vote will be cast and counted on Election Day -- in some states your chances aren't so good.

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