Do you believe that every voter should be able to vote in 30 minutes or less?
But yet, once again, we were faced with photo after photo of impossibly long lines at polling stations in both Georgia and South Carolina yesterday. This is what voter suppression looks like:
The Brennan Center for Justice just published a report, Waiting to Vote: Racial Disparities in Election Day Experiences, full of data and recommendations for how we can improve the voting experience across the board. The goal is to ensure that every voter has the same experience no matter where they live.
You can read the full report HERE, and a summary with their recommendations HERE. The summary is short and easy to read — if you’re passionate about voting rights and decreasing voter suppression, I highly encourage you to look it over.
Among other things, their report shows that around 3 million voters had to wait longer than 30 minutes to cast their vote in the 2018 midterms, and that many of these voters were concentrated in the southeastern U.S., home to the largest shares of voters of color. Furthermore, an estimated half million voters end up not voting because of polling place issues, like long waits.
Their chief recommendation for the 2020 election is not to ensure that every polling place has the same resources — that did not in itself produce equitable outcomes for every voter — but instead that states should invest MORE resources to those polling locations that have had issues with long lines.
Another recommendation is for elections officials to PLAN for a spike in voting in 2020, instead of relying on past turnout trends, and then allocate resources accordingly.
When it comes right down to it, there is absolutely no reason that polling places can’t solve these issues. Businesses study how they can reduce wait lines and have a lot of solutions that polling places can use, too.
What we can do
You can always call your local elections officials and ask them questions like, “What are you doing to ensure that voters don’t have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote?” and “Are you planning for a spike in voting in November?” If you want to call your elections officials yourself, use THIS TOOL to get their contact information.
However, in order to put real pressure on your elections officials, you might want to also call your local League of Women Voters or ACLU to ask how they are working with elections officials in your county to ensure equitable outcomes.
There’s no time to wait. November is almost here.
For further reading:
Report: Improving the Voter Experience
Report: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (January 2014)
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Categories: Take Action
Those recommendations assume that state governments controlled by Republicans would be motivated to solve these voting problems. However, they are absolutely not motivated to do so. The GOP fears they are heading towards a historic defeat this November, and they are doing everything in their power to suppress voter turnout. What happened in Georgia was intended to happen. Which precincts had the worst problems? Predominantly black areas in and around Atlanta. That was no coincidence.
The Des Moines Register published an editorial recently openly accusing Republican legislators in Iowa of deliberate voter suppression after record turnout in the state’s June 2nd primary. The Republican Secretary of State had sent absentee ballots to all voters in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it worked. But, GOP leaders didn’t like the result.
We must start thinking outside the box. Too much is at stake. Playing nice and playing by the rules could end in a disastrous Trump reelection. We need to understand that war is being waged against democracy, the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, and America itself.
What we can do, but we’d need control of Congress, is to hold back federal funding for, say, an infrastructure project until they get 30 minute or less wait times at all of their locations. This exact tactic was used in the 80s when the drinking age was raised to 21 but every state needed to pass a law requiring it. In Wisconsin’s case, they were lagging so the federal govt withheld their highway funds until the law was passed.
Okay, but we don’t have control of Congress; so, that’s not an option. Let’s focus on what is practicable.
Republicans send “poll watchers” to voting sites. We could send “poll watcher watchers” to voting sites.
Republicans use the levers of government to suppress voter turnout. We could use the power of public opinion, through the media, to expose Republicans’ anti-democracy efforts and to educate voters about how to enforce their voting rights.
Republicans file lawsuits to purge voter rolls and to restrict the right to vote. We can file lawsuits to hold Republicans accountable for disenfranchising voters.
Yes, such efforts take effort, money, and organizing. But, isn’t defending democracy worth it?
It’s absolutely worth it. The Democrats are also filing lawsuits right and left to beat back the Republican attempts to curb voting this November, notably with restriction around voting by mail. Being a poll watcher is always an option, and encouraging others to sign up to be one is a good idea. As for public opinion and the media, the difficulty is getting attention on what is considered a local issue. They’ll cover the long lines in Georgia on Election Night or the following night, but they won’t cover the county commissioner’s meeting where the closing of polling stations was voted on. I’m all ears for ideas on how we help local constituents get the attention they need on these issues.
Sorry, I should have been clearer. I know that Democrats are defending voting rights in court, but I was suggesting that they take the offensive. They could file more lawsuits on the behalf of plaintiffs who were disenfranchised by Republican officials. The goal wouldn’t necessarily be to win those lawsuits, but to use the legal proceedings as a public relations bludgeon against Republicans and conservative judges who refuse to support voting rights. Likewise, I understand the difficulties of the news media, but I was suggesting buying commercial advertising time to expose Republicans’ anti-democracy schemes.
Ulysses S. Grant told his generals, after a tactical defeat in the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness, that he was tired of hearing about what Confederate General Robert E. Lee was doing and insisted that his generals tell him about what they were going to do. Grant changed the course of history by pushing the offensive against Lee, and it worked. Less than a year later, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Being proactive and being on the offensive is a good thing. Conversations about what the Democrats should be doing are interesting but are hard to turn into concrete action that my readers can take, which is what I like to write about.