As Republicans reduce early voting hours, they make a seemingly logical argument. We should get rid of early voting because it opens up opportunities for nefarious people to vote more than once. We already know that at least a couple of 2014 Republican Candidates, registered to vote in 2 or more states. Certainly, early voting makes it possible for Republicans like Kathy Myalls and Leslie Rutledge to vote more than once. Limiting voting to Election Day definitely would protect the election process from people like Myalls and Rutledge.
Of course, we know that when Republicans express concern about multiple votes, they aren’t talking about Myalls and Rutledge, or about Mitt Romney, who accidentally committed misdemeanor voter fraud.. They were victims of star crazed clerks, an inability to read forms for accuracy before signing them and pushy clerks who forced them to fill out change of address forms when they wanted to update their voter registration information.
Republicans are worried that someone working 3 minimum wage jobs in Wisconsin just to put food on the table, will somehow have the time and finances needed for travel to other states during early voting so they can vote more than once. Sure they are. And my name is Sarah Palin.
The simple truth is Republicans hate early voting because it is used predominately by people who don’t have the means to have so many homes in so many states that they can forget if they still live at the address shown on their voter registration card. Early voting means access to the vote for people who live in districts that lack the resources to accommodate voter demand on Election Day.
Indeed, the voting experience in America varies, depending on where you live. That’s the general thrust of a study by the Government Accountability Office. (GAO) Granted, this is based on limited data because the GAO estimates that 78% of precincts didn’t have any data on the primary issue that early voting addresses: wait times.
In some cases by design, voting is easy, convenient and fast. Voters don’t have to wait in line. In fact, waiting 10 minutes to vote would be unacceptable. According to the GAO’s findings, In predominantly minority and poor districts, the voting experience is much more time consuming.
This study doesn’t offer any new insights. Rather it verifies what other studies have already said.
The GAO identifies several criteria affecting the time people wait to vote. Opportunities to vote before Election Day. The time it takes to check-in which depends on the type of poll books that election officials use and the means by which a voter’s eligibility is determined. In other words, highly restrictive voter ID requirements provide two real obstacles. First the financial costs that go with travel and costs of documents needed, even when the state provides “free” Voter ID. Second, restrictive ID requirements prolong the check in process. In reality, if the real concern is assuring eligibility, this process could be shortened with a National Voter ID card. The time it takes to vote can also very depending on the composition of the ballot and the voting equipment.
This study, like others before it, also confirm that long wait times at the polls in concentrated in “particular places — certain states, cities, and areas with large minority populations.”
The GAO desn’t consider other factors that prolong the voting process, like long commutes to distant polling places, many of which are not accessible by public transit. The commute to that remote polling place alone can take longer than the entire process takes in a more affluent district. After that long commute, voters endure long lines based on the factors considered in the GAO study. Many of us can put in a full day’s work during the wait time that some voters must endure to exercise their franchise.
The purpose of early voting is to make voting less time consuming. That is especially important for people who are juggling family responsibilities and several jobs. Waiting hours to vote isn’t an option for people who need every penny they earn at thankless slave wage jobs, just to put food on the table.
According to election administration researchers, long waits discourages voting. Since Republicans benefit when voter participation is low, the motive behind their desire to reduce early voting is obvious.
Voters in Kosovo’s first post war election waited in line for 15+ hours to exercise their franchise. In the end, demand could not be met and at just one voting center, approximately 3,000 people could not vote. This is according to one of our voting monitors who, like many others, went to Kosovo to teach the locals how to hold elections and make sure that the elections were run properly.
Republicans are trying to create separate and unequal voting experiences. Republican voters (in predominantly white and affluent districts) will retain a modern and sophisticated voting experience in keeping with an advanced society. In direct contrast, the voting experience in less affluent, predominantly minority and Democrat strongholds will compare to that of countries learning how to conduct free and fair elections. None of this coincides with the free and fair elections that are part of the American exceptionalism that Republicans claim to believe in.
Image: The Grio