It’s too hard to vote!

In 2018, it is too hard to vote in many states. I’m not referring to the barriers to registration discussed elsewhere in these blogs. I mean that it’s too hard to submit your ballot with your choices. Some states make it hard to vote, because this effectively reduces participation in certain groups they want to exclude.

This is not about the challenges around voter ID laws, or voter registration. This is really simply about offering the convenience of early voting, making sure that there are sufficient voting stations, and staffing them properly to avoid long lines.

Lack of early voting makes it too hard for poor people and minorities to vote

A few simple factors make it harder to vote for poor people in general. Election days are on a Tuesdays – a working day! For someone who has limited means – for instance, relying on public transportation – this creates a first barrier. Or if someone is working two jobs to make ends meet, then the logistics become even more difficult.

Furthermore, wait times are too often a disgrace. There are numerous documented examples of of citizens waiting for hours to be able to vote.
This is made worse when early voting is not an option. On the positive side, 34 states and the District of Columbia allow no-excuse early voting. Another three states use all-mail voting systems, eliminating the need for early voting. Overall this is pretty good, but there are still 13 states which do not allow early voting. As of early 2018, the following states don’t allow no-excuse early voting: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.

Shout out to the three states which have adopted mail-in voting entirely, which by design allows early voting: Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Other states are considering adopting this less expensive and more secure approach to voting, such as Connecticut and New Jersey.

As the list of states shows, this issue is ‘bipartisan, in the sense that both Democrats and Republicans fail to make it easy to vote. Call your legislators and encourage them to allow early voting!

Wait time by state – courtesy the Altlantic

Polling places are sometimes changed to make it hard to vote

Election boards need to adjust the number of polling stations for each election. Obviously, this is a complex assessment. They need to balance ease of public access with careful spending of our tax dollars. However, this process can be used to make it harder to vote for specific counties. This creates a real opportunity for abuse.

A 2012 analysis by the Atlantic shows that:
– African Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote
– Hispanics waited 19 minutes.
– Whites waited 12 minutes
While there are other individual-level demographic difference present in the responses, none stands out as much as race.

Since then, the Supreme Court ended the pre-clearance clause in the VRA with the Shelby County vs. Holder decision, and things got noticeably worse in 2016 – driven by huge reductions in polling stations across many southern states.

Number of polling places closed since the end of VRA preclearance (2012 through 2016) – courtesy The Atlantic


What can you do?

As always, the first step is to call your representatives and ask them to make it easier to vote. Encourage the ones who are doing the right thing, and prod those which are reluctant.

And don’t assume that all states are doing the right thing – both of our major parties show a surprising lack of care for the most important moment in our democratic life. New York is a great example of state which makes it very hard to vote!

To find out the latest for your state, check out the Rock the vote – a great resource for the topic. Find out what your state is doing (or not) here.

A great resource to know what is happening in your state and across the US


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