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November 01, 2008

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Costs money.
Costs local government money.
And that means the property tax. The rental, etc. on our optiscans for this small town (7000) plus the far-from-extravagant checks for poll wardens, etc. runs about $4000 for an election

If there's anything that reduces ordinary, sensible people to gibbering, screeching idiots, it's the local property tax.

Some days I'm glad we have a fire department, and surprised that vote ever passed.

I'm not worried about a Bradley effect, which has never made much sense to me. I'm very worried about the problem of long lines and other voter suppression efforts. And then the pundits can use the Bradley effect they've been talking up for weeks as an explanation for why things didn't turn out as expected.

Davis: I should probably have been clearer: I'd rather it be done with federal money (or: that federal money should in some pretty serious way supplement local money), so that inequalities in local tax bases don't translate into inequalities in voter access.

Well put, hilzoy. The 800 lb gorilla in the room is the insane reliance on property taxes (based in turn on assessed value) to fund most state and municipal spending. Democratic pols in my state (WA) quake in terror when the subject comes up...yet they will persist in piling the costs of progressive legislation on the back of a creaky regressive tax system.

Recipie for disaster....cart before the horse...you get the idea.

Wow. I'm glad you posted this. This has been bugging me for a long time. As a foreign observer, it astonishes me that anyone of whatever political stripe in the US can even begin to think this is tolerable. It is completely outrageous.
Isn't there any room for judicical review here? A writ of mandamus, surely?

To clarify my rant above, "that subject" would be a progressive state income tax.

I fear that nothing will be done about the voting problems in this county until the GOP is fully destroyed and a more reasonable conservative party rises from the ashes. As long as one of the two major parties gains an electoral advantage by suppressing turnout, why would they go along with change?

Make Election Day a national holiday.

The lines, the wait, would still matter. But at least people wouldn't miss work -- or miss voting because of having to work.

The longest it's ever taken me to vote is upwards of an hour, a nusance, but not reason enough to keep me from voting.

Still, when you escape from work on your lunch hour, it would be nice if it would not take your whole lunch hour -- or more.

Solve that problem with the national holiday. Don't make people put work over voting or vice versa.

I don't recall ever having to wait to vote - at least, not for more than two minutes. Granted the ballots are more complicated/take more time to complete in full in the US than in the UK, where the maximum number of ballots I have ever had to complete simultaneously is 4.

But, when the electoral officials have an entire primary school to make use of, and when electoral equipment (not counting the ballots themselves) consists of: the electoral register, sealed ballot boxes, temporary voting booths rapidly put up for each election, and of course a pencil for each booth in case the voter didn't bring their own, it really isn't difficult to make sure that there is enough electoral equipment to make sure no one has to stand in line.

Paper ballots, filled in by hand, handcounted, with the candidates or their representatives witnessing the count, are the gold standard of elections. Nothing else is as effective in reliability or efficiency. Hopefully, Obama will both win and be declared the winner - and will do something to change the rotten system currently in use in the US.

Ten hour lines for EARLY voting!?

don't we pay people to estimate how high turnout will be, and to plan accordingly? And don't ten hour lines call their competence into question?

Absolutely.

This is not a hard problem

The whole business of queues and waiting times and service times pops up in all sorts of situations, and the mathematics is well-understood and widely used. Want to have, say, 95% of all waits be 30 minutes or less? Not hard. Just do a little math, or look in a published table to see how many machines you need. You have to do some estimates of arrivals, but you shouldn't be miles off on that.

The buffoonery surrounding voting in the US is ridiculous and embarrassing.

To quote Casey Stengel in another context:

"Can't anybody here play this game?"

"Granted the ballots are more complicated/take more time to complete in full in the US than in the UK, where the maximum number of ballots I have ever had to complete simultaneously is 4."

The ballot in Boulder had some 50-85 or so questions to check off. As I continually have to point out to British folks, handcounting those tends to take weeks.

First of all early voting locations are just a small fraction of the polling sites open on election day. So save the hysteria.

It was a ten hour line on the last day for early voting. The people who cannot vote early due to their prograstination can still vote on election day.

Blaming election officials for not having enough machines on the last day is completely unfair, but typical of the thinking around here. If the wait was only twenty or thirty minutes on every other day how in heck are they supposed to know that twenty times the number of voters would show up on the last day?

Secondly, where was all this concern about working people, the elderly and the infirm who could not attend the caucuses that kept Obama alive even though he was losing election after election to Clinton?

If I recall correctly you justified the caucus results and did not conmplain in the slightest about their undemocratic voter suppression nature.

But yeah, on election day itself no one should have to wait hours in line to vote. But that sometimes happens I think because resources are generally allocated based upon historical voter turnout. I think, objectively speaking, that is the fairest and most unbiased method of allocating limited resources.

When voting machines are free then we should have an overabundance of them in every polling station in America. Until then we have to deal with reality, like it or not.

I feel the need for a lot more information on the early voting lines in Georgia. In the absence of that, I doubt very much that they predict lines of similar length for election day.

Does anyone have a source on how many early-voting locations there are in Atlanta and how many voting stations at each of those?

"The whole business of queues and waiting times and service times pops up in all sorts of situations, and the mathematics is well-understood and widely used."

This is absolutely true, but as someone who worked on and then observed the science fiction convention community deal with them at registration and other lines, I have to note that there's always both the groups that know the right strategies, and get it right, and the newbie groups that just don't get it, and screw it up, year after year.

I've seen the same thing at Democratic caucuses -- too many amateurs who don't know what they're doing doing the setups and layouts.

I don't think there should be any excuse for getting it wrong with voting, but I suspect that a good part of it isn't always malicious intent, but simple clueless incompetence and lack of basic knowledge.

"Ten hour lines for EARLY voting!?"

My therapist on Friday mentioned having to wait about an hour or more, and hearing the same from others, here in Raleigh, North Carolina.

First of all early voting locations are just a small fraction of the polling sites open on election day.

And early voters are just a small fraction of the voters who will show up on election day, so that's not reassuring.

I doubt that resources are based completely on historical turnout, since lines are always far longer in the cities than outside them. But if they've started doing that, I expect to hear there are no lines in the central cities in Ohio, for example, since they had them last time and clearly that means they'll be planning for it this time. In reality, it seems that the number of voting machines depends on local funding, so I don't expect things to change much.

Voting machines aren't free, but voting stations for paper ballots are, practically. That's yet another reason for abandoning these error-prone machines that repeatedly lead to disasters and delays. A polling place can easily have ten times as many voting stations if all they need at each is a pencil, a writing surface, and a privacy screen, rather than a machine that requires maintenance and monitoring by specialized technicians and costs thousands of dollars.

It took me 90 minutes to do in-person absentee voting in DC on Monday. I expect there to be chaos at our polling places -- and probably in the counting, judging by the experience of the September primary. Fortunately whatever happens in DC will have no effect on the presidential election.

Just in case anyone's tempted to tell me to find the Georgia info for myself, I'm busy trying to find the source info for the disparity Edley cites for Virginia localities, where some have a ratio of 150 voters/machine and others 600.

That stat could be seriously misleading. I'd be willing to bet that there are very, very few localities with precincts whose voter/machine ratio is 150, and that where they exist is not wealthy white suburbs willing to spend more on elections, but rural counties where one or two precincts only have 150 voters. The folded-up topography and thin population of my part of the state makes it hard in some areas to form precincts larger than 150-200 without unduly burdensome travel for voters.

In my own county, which has those characteristics but not to the extremes of the counties west and south of here, the smallest precinct has just over 300 voters and one machine, while the biggest has three machines for its 1500+.

Turnout for presidential elections here typically exceeds 75%.

I want to see the figures for the whole state, because the crucial question is whether the ratio isn't a lot more even within dense urban and suburban localities, and towards which end of the 150-600 spectrum those numbers tend.

What exactly is wrong with 100% vote by mail?

Now_what, as more voting is done by mail, I expect to see more scandals and complaints related to bribery and coercion, since voting by mail abandons the idea of the secret ballot. Families, churches, unions, employers and employees, and other groups can all get together and make sure they're all voting the right way.

While I do think the lines on the last day of early voting can't necessarily be extrapolated to predict disastrously long lines on election day, I have to take issue with this this part of ken's post:

If the wait was only twenty or thirty minutes on every other day how in heck are they supposed to know that twenty times the number of voters would show up on the last day?

Anyone who's ever organized anything with a deadline should be familiar with this phenomenon. Election officials organize something every election cycle that should have taught them this lesson: registration. The last day of voter registration routinely has many more times the number of registration applicants than any of the days preceding it.

Waiting until the last minute to do something is a feature of human nature that you can deplore all you like, but effective organizers take it into account rather than expecting to be able to change it for their particular occasion.

Officials who failed to multiply the voting stations available for the last day or two of early voting were

- happy to suppress the vote by scaring Atlanta voters with pictures of the long lines (not at all unlikely if the criminally partisan GA Secretary of State had any control over this situation),
- not thinking things through (in which case the inability to learn from registration raises questions of competence), and/or
- hamstrung by restricted funding (in which case they should have been alerting voters to the likely situation from long before the early voting began).

ken: you've been banned already. Why keep showing up?

What exactly is wrong with 100% vote by mail?

I agree with what KC said, but my initial thought was that it sounds a little too easy for ballots from, say, 'ethnic' precincts to be inexplicably 'lost.' Granted I don't know how that would happen, but it seems like an obvious exploit in the system.

The rental, etc. on our optiscans for this small town (7000) plus the far-from-extravagant checks for poll wardens, etc. runs about $4000 for an election

DXM,

Thanks for the information. Let's work with it. Let's say you could have a great setup for $7000, one dollar/person.

Scale that up for the country and we could have a great setup for $300 million. Is that be too low? Call it $500 million. Why is it not worth that much to have reliable and efficient voting in national elections?

A model for what can go wrong with voting by mail can already be found in what has gone wrong with absentee ballots. In 2004, voters in strong Kerry precincts were 265% more likely to have their absentee ballots thrown out. There is also some evidence that Democratic absentee ballots may get 'lost in the mail' more frequently than Republican ones.*


*See 'Steel back your vote' by Greg Palast and Bobby Kennedy Jr.

Former Virginia governer and Richmond mayor Doug Wilder, already not one of my favorite people, actually had the gall to call on Gov. Kaine a few days ago to decree longer voting hours for some localities because of the possibility of long lines.

First of all, giving some localities longer to vote than others would be flat-out illegal under federal election law.* Second, the governor has no power to decree this, even if he were to lengthen voting hours for all polling places across the state. Third, officers of the election (polling station workers) are already committed to a fifteen-hour day, 5 am-8 pm. Virtually all localities had held their election-worker training by the time Wilder piped up. Fourth, Wilder knows all these facts very well, and was in a better position than almost anyone else in the Commonwealth to influence the funding available to the Richmond Board of Elections' provision of polling stations.

*I agree that serious disparities in the ratio of registered voters to voting stations are also prima facie violations of federal election law, and would support federal funding along with mandates to correct them.

@ now_what:
Re postal ballots - it's instructive that the only complaints and prosecutions under the English system have concerned the recent introduction of postal ballots (introduced with the laudable intention to increase voter turnout in BME communities). There are allegations that votes have been hijacked and voters intimidated.

It's a nice idea, but it needs a lot of thinking through to make it work.

"it's instructive that the only complaints and prosecutions"

Your link is broken.

"Your link is broken."

Sorry. The url is here:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article377163.ece

There are no easy answers to how to fund local government, and folks have been going round and round debating sales, income, and property taxes for years.

Property taxes are indeed regressive, but they have the great advantage of being a steady source of revenue. Especially in smaller communities, sales and income tax revenues can swing wildly from year to year, even quarter to quarter. That makes it difficult for local government to budget efficiently because services need to be maintained even (and perhaps especially) during periods of economic slumps. During this current period of financial pain, the numbers of students in school, the amount of garbage to be picked up weekly, the miles of streets to be maintained and patrolled will not decline. But sales and income tax revenues have, and pretty sharply, too, as people cut back on purchases and lose jobs.

Property taxes, on the other hand, are a far more reliable revenue source. Here in Illinois, property taxes are based on official assessments that, in turn, are partially based on a three year average of assessed values. That means that during violent swings of the real estate market, either up or down, the impact on taxpayers is cushioned. Everybody likes that averaging thing when property values are spiking upwards, but they're not too crazy when they're dropping--like now--because of the inertia built into the system.

But local government knows they can rely on a relatively stable level of property tax revenues from year to year.

As far as funding elections, and speaking personally, I think they're as important as providing police and fire protection, and ought to be a major priority of local government. Local government is already allowed to maintain property tax rates at certain levels to pay specific expenses such as bonded indebtedness and state mandated employee benefits. Election expenses ought to be the same. If people don't want to pay the cost of holding free and fair elections, they can go somewhere else. There are a whole bunch of places in the world where residents don't have to worry their little heads about such things.

I agree with what KC said, but my initial thought was that it sounds a little too easy for ballots from, say, 'ethnic' precincts to be inexplicably 'lost.'

Observers from both campaigns would be present when mail-in ballots were counted, and typically ballots, once completed at home, can be dropped off in person at the places where ballots are counted if the voter so desires. How would it be easier to lose votes from a given precinct under those conditions than it is now?

There is also some evidence that Democratic absentee ballots may get 'lost in the mail' more frequently than Republican ones.

Typically voters as well as GOTV workers for campaigns can check if ballots for a given registered voter have been received. Since vote by mail is usually done over a 3 week period, this does not become a problem.

There are allegations that votes have been hijacked and voters intimidated.

From what I've read of problems with vote by mail in the UK, they did not require that ballots be mailed to a voter's registered address, and they did not check signatures on ballots against the signature from voter registration. So yes, it needs a lot of thinking through, as does any system.

As far as intimidation goes, if someone is willing to commit a felony they can intimidate voters whether at a polling place or in a vote by mail election. It's much more efficient for the felons when all the voting happens at a limited number of polling places.

I'd be far more worried about a computerized voting machine than a system that leaves a paper trail, is observable, and takes place over several weeks leaving time to correct abuses and mistakes.

As far as intimidation goes, if someone is willing to commit a felony they can intimidate voters whether at a polling place or in a vote by mail election. It's much more efficient for the felons when all the voting happens at a limited number of polling places.

Yeah, I was going to point out the same thing. If it's hard to wholesale voter fraud now, then wholesale voter intimidation is going to be just as hard. That kind of organization is going to leak out and it's a lot more obvious when it's an overt threat, as opposed to fraud.

Individual, small scale threats are going to work, but that's the same as now, right?

"As far as intimidation goes, if someone is willing to commit a felony they can intimidate voters whether at a polling place or in a vote by mail election."

I'm sorry, I don't follow this. Where it's a secret ballot, no-one can see how you voted, so the intimidator has only empty threats. The place where you cast your vote in a polling station is private. So long as you don't have a take-away piece of paper showing how you voted, which you may have to produce to an intimidator, it will remain private.

Where the intimidator lives in your street, at your place of worship, or in your house, and has asked you to entrust them to deliver your postal ballot to the mailbox (they do, they do!) s/he has a far greater chance of effecting the vote they want.

For these reasons I prefer the primitive pencil and paper ballots, which are their own paper trail, and custody of which is under constant public surveillance, to the black box voting machines whose owners technicians and manufacturers have to convince us of their bona fides.

Recall that for early voting in Georgia, you do not go to your precinct, but to a single county election center.

So you have a county such as Gwinnett with just under 800,000 people, 364,000 registered voters, and 1 place to line up to vote at 20-odd machines.

So far, 106,000 people in Gwinnett County voted early.

That's why you have long lines.

I have to agree with Anne here, and it's the one reservation I have about liberalizing mail-in absentee balloting.

In fact, on reflection, I'd have to say that I like Virginia's restrictions for mail-in absentee balloting (you have to specify the reason), but favor removing them entirely for in-person early voting.

Thanks for that info, El Cid; it's what I suspected. That's how it is for "in-person absentee" voting now in Virginia, but the numbers are held down by the special requirements for absentee voting.

If and when we liberalize that to just straight-ahead early voting, there'll have to be more early polling places than just the registrar's office in any serious-sized locality.

Voting by mail can work extremely well if it's done right. I moved to Oregon from California in the summer of 2004, just in time to miss my first general election on e-machines. In Oregon your signature is recorded electronically when you register to vote. When you get the ballot in the mail you fill out your choices with ballpoint pen (the ballot is read by optical scanner.) There is a blank secrecy envelope whose use is optional, but that is what gives you a secret ballot. I always use it. Then there is the outer envelope which is imprinted with your name and which you have to sign in order for the ballot to be valid. You can either send it through US mail or drop it in a designated ballot drop box which is under the watch of a security camera. The local newspaper said the biggest problem is voters in the same household getting their signature envelopes mixed up. If that happens and you've turned in your ballot far enough ahead of time they'll return it to you.

People who have lived here a long time tell me that they worked for years to develop this system, but it seems to work extremely well, especially now that e-voting is causing so many problems everywhere else.

Delia, that sounds very good. The Oregon system seems to militate against the "steal me" flag on the envelope of the English postal ballot papers. (I don't know about the US Mail, but the British Post Office is not beyond criticism. Votes were stolen here before they even reached the voters.)

However, there remains the problem - albeit small, and probably confined only to certain patriarchal communities - that the postal vote can be influenced or stolen in the home or community after receipt of the ballot paper but prior to returning it in the envelope. The communally-observed privacy of the polling booth may be unavailable in the privacy of the home or religious community. The voter can be at the mercy of his/her spouse/priest/community leader.
This sort of coercion has more influence on the election of local representatives than national leaders, but is no less pernicious for that.

Oh, and I shouldn't be so PC. I don't believe there are any instances of women stealing postal votes or placing undue pressure on voters. Especially not in religious communities.

The ballot in Boulder had some 50-85 or so questions to check off. As I continually have to point out to British folks, handcounting those tends to take weeks.

In regards to the Presidential election, so what? The electors don't meet until Dec. 15 this year. That's plenty of time. Are there things on the ballot that are supposed to take effect on Nov. 5 if they pass?

Anne: I don't believe there are any instances of women stealing postal votes or placing undue pressure on voters. Especially not in religious communities.

I do believe this was a Daily Mail theme during the last British election. The summary narrative went something like: "Those Muslim men are getting their wives to register for postal ballots and then forcing them to vote according to the husband's wishes at home." Really, as a Daily Mail story, it had everything: racism, sexism, nationalism. (Note: I find by googling that the Daily Telegraph also liked this story a lot.)

Needless to say, neither paper was troubled by any paucity of data...

Anne, you're worried about women with both of the following characteristics:

1. able to resist familial/community coercion to vote absentee rather than in person.

2. unable to resist coercion regarding how to fill out their ballot, or protect it from theft or alteration.

Yes, there are undoubtedly women like that. Not many though, I'd bet.

This is the sort of thing Bruce Schneier writes about. If you make take-home ballots available to everyone, more people will vote, and the security cost will be that all voters are more vulnerable to individualized coercion (or bribery). If you don't make take-home ballots available at all you reduce the opportunities for individual coercion, but fewer people can vote, and more of them become vulnerable to centralized disenfranchisement.

There's no such thing as a system without tradeoffs. I personally don't think that postal-only ballot delivery (e.g. OR) is such a hot idea, but I do think allowing voters to register as "permanent absentee" (e.g. CA) is the best policy in most circumstances.

I will also say that (even though I strongly support the retention of the Electoral College), the whole "First Tuesday in November Unless it's Also the First Day in November and No, It's Not a National Holiday" business has been increasingly stupid and pointless for about a hundred years now and I'm glad that early/postal voting is finally getting some real traction in this country.

There are some things where federalism, as we employ it, has simply emerged increasingly ridiculous. We have national TSA guidelines which made it necessary for me to throw out a pint of low-fat schmear (cream cheese), because it was interpreted as more than, what, 3.2 oz. of a "gel" or something? The accompanying baker's dozen of bagels I was bringing to my 87-year-old mom were ok, but the schmear to go with them had to be dumped. Yet we can't establish workable national guidelines to run elections without shady local political scams to suppress the votes of our adversaries. We can't make voting for some folks different from good old Soviet-style waiting on line for butter or fruit. We have archaic and corrupt vestiges of our politics which would be criminal if our justice system weren't also so fraught with loo

sorry -- so fraught with loopholes. Sheesh.

I don't believe there are any instances of women stealing postal votes or placing undue pressure on voters. Especially not in religious communities.
You never met German deaconesses, I presume. Don't know about stealing ballots but there is pressure enough to produce diamonds in deaconess mother houses to vote the right way. The holy inquisition is nothing against an investigation into which sister has voted SPD (social democrats). I hear that some nunneries are similar but the above I have from what my mother, who had first-hand experience, told me.

The solutions are glaringly straightforward: the election is already tied to the census--distribute federal monies to pay for the election per county according to the number of citizens residing in that county regardless of whether they are registered to vote or not. Then make registering people to vote a federal/state job with rewards going to the state in terms of money or other grant opportunities according to the proportion of citizens the state manages to register *and turn out* to vote. Voter suppression at the local level thus has an effect on overall revenues/granting opportunities at the state level.

In addition, hire people from Disney or major restaurant and car rental offices to plan ahead for long lines. Is there any reason at all that people can't be given numbers while they are in line and given beepers or a half hour window in which to return to vote? Or why we don't have portable, hand held voting stations like the computer systems used to check packages in and out of UPS/FED ex?

I'm warden at my precinct on Tuesday, and I've been warden and clerk before. As I posted over at IIRTZ here in MA we really, really, really, want everyone to vote but its still a very exhausting and difficult one day process. Something people may not realize, as well, is that in MA a) absentee ballots must be for cause and b) each one is processed, by hand, by the warden at your official home precinct. So they are either processed by me while there is a lull in the regular line or after the polls close. I have to stand in line as though I were the voter, call out their name, cross it off the poll list, feed the ballot into the machine without looking at it, cross it off the exit poll list and proceed to the next. When you consider that several sets of records must be kept of that ballot before it even reaches me you realize what a hugely time consuming process each step in a single vote can be.

aimai

We should also amend the constitution to have Election Day (a national holiday) on May 1 and Inauguration Day on July 4.

No more waiting in the rain.

We should also amend the constitution to have Election Day (a national holiday) on May 1 and Inauguration Day on July 4.

That would require some President to agree to give up six months of what would have been his administration to his successor. Stick to the possible...

"That would require some President to agree to give up six months of what would have been his administration to his successor. Stick to the possible..."

Do it in the first term of a popular President; That way he can give it up to himself, in his second term.

The secret ballot is a critical protection, and I do not think we should give it up lightly. Why can't we have mobile polling places going around to meet people who can't get to the polls on voting day? Complete with challengers?

Hm, why not going even further and let the state collect the votes at the voter's home address in general? Hello, I am from the government and I am here to take your vote ;-)
(not realistic, I know, but an interesting thought).

I live in Georgia's DeKalb County, in the city limits of Atlanta. It is the third-most-populated county in the Atlanta area and the state. DeKalb is the second-most-affluent county with an African-American majority in the United States. It has approximately 700,000 residents. The Secretary of State's office, who handles voting, opened only two, I repeat two, locations for early voting September 22-October 24. For advanced voting October 27-31, there were only six locations open. Waiting in lines varied from two hours for early voting to six hours this week for advanced voting.

The Secretary of State's office knew about the thousands of newly registered voters in our county, most of them African American, and still could only manage to open six locations for a population of over 700,000. Granted, not all 700,000 residents will vote. However, I am confident that this tactic is used to suppress voting - people don't want to stand in long lines in 35 degree weather. Also, the state recently passed a law stating that you have to show a driver's license to vote. So don't tell me that the state of Georgia, run by a Republican majority, is not putting up every barrier possible to prevent voters, mostly African Americans, from voting. Shameful.

I'm for separating the federal and state/local elections, doing the federal on a holiday created for that purpose, with universal registration, paper ballots, and a reasonable amount of early voting.

The states can do what they want for their own elections. Some will surely want to stick with their vote-suppressing, complex systems because of sunk costs and political advantage to the current legislature and executive.

Thanks for that report from the ground, SMN.

The willingness of DeKalb and other Atlanta-area voters to persist in early voting lines despite the barriers set up by the Republican Secretary of State (and governor and legislature) has created the result that something like a third of Georgia's African-American voters have already voted.

This has created space at the polls on election day for full turnout of the remaining A-A vote and for turnout of newly registered and young voters in proportions not seen before, without similarly extreme waits.

The provision of early voting stations was abusively inadequate and clearly designed to create the images featured in the post, in order to discourage African-American, first-time, and infrequent voters. But those images do not necessarily foretell horrific waits on election day; they have actually make such an outcome less likely.

There'll be long, long lines on Tuesday morning, because people who work will want to try to make sure they've voted before going to work. But by mid-morning there should be little to no wait. Anyone who can should head to the polls at ten in the morning when the normal "lull" sets in until the lunch rush. Next best is 2:00 pm, after the lunch rush but well before the end-of-workday vote. (Factory day shifts that end at 3:00, schools that let out at 3:30, etc.)

This is especially true for parents who'll have to take small children with them, and people whose age or physical condition makes it difficult to stand in line.

My solution is Election Day Saturday. Perhaps we could do the separation that way: The State and Local can be Friday, the Presidential Sunday. Or we vote on two consecutive weekends. The first weekend would be State and Local, the Second would be Federal. Under that system we would have already voted for our mayor, Governors, State Legislatures and Propositions.

I don't think any of these solutions will work, because IMHO the problem is the self-limiting nature of democracy.

What we have here is too much democracy, which leads to less democracy. The way to make voting simpler and more transparent and to have more people vote (which = more democracy) is to put fewer things to a vote (which = less democracy).

The US can't practically use readily verifiable, hand-counted paper ballots because we vote on too many things at once: not just the President, but Congress and state offices and several levels of local offices, not to mention the state and local public questions. There can easily be 50, 70, or 100 items on a ballot, and that's just too many decisions to reasonably expect most people to make.

The more democracy you have, the fewer people vote. The more often you vote, the fewer people vote. The more democratically-decided questions on the ballot, the harder it is to count them reliably.

Basically, democracy is *extremely* expensive, and no society can afford more than a certain amount. It may be that one could calculate how the various factors interact so that we could rationally discuss which ones are most important, but IMHO we cannot maximize all of them at once.

I like the idea of opening the polls on Saturday and running them through Tuesday-election day. I would actually find voting much easier on a Saturday, but because of religious reasons for some people a Saturday only election day seems cruel and just as disinfanchising.

The longest wait I ever had was in a suburb of Charleston, SC which used the old fashioned lever type machine (not sure if any states still use them). The wait was around 2 hours and that was in 1992.

The next two states I lived in used optical scan machines, and the waits were never more than 30 minutes, even with very long lines, mostly because you could easily set up 20 or 30 voting booths for privacy-more if desired to move people in and out faster.

The city I currently live in, up until this year used the old fashioned paper ballot where the little old ladies would count the votes by hand and call in the results. This presidential primary we used an optical scan machine. I don't think I have ever waited more than 10 minutes, and that with a line out the door.

So my vote is to ditch any kind of voting that involves the voter and a machine in a private booth. I like paper ballots and paper trails, and the one thing I like about the optical scan is that you use a marker to fill in the mark, so it isn't easily tampered with and could easily be counted by hand if deemed necessary. Also, these methods generally seem to go much more quickly even with long lines.

As for who is harmed-my guess is it depends a lot on what precinct the problems are in, but I would point out that in most states the precinct and election officials are often elected positions and the people in charge of solving these problems are often democrats in democratic leaning precincts and cities and republican in the republican leaning ones. I think just as often as not this isn't an intentional problem where one party seeks to harm the other, but more a matter of people just not doing the wisest things, because they don't think.

I am not convinced long lines or weird/confusing ballots, or types of machines used problems are due to malice.

The long lines in Georgia's early voting are clearly not just due to incompetence.

About twice as many people voted early as did so in 2004. The increased registration numbers, and turnout in the Democratic primary, should have made it clear that many more stations would be required for early voting to avoid long waits and long lines. Yet they were not increased significantly over 2004.

That doesn't necessarily mean election day waits will be extreme, but I'm betting that the waits that there are will be concentrated in the Obama-voting areas.

We voted early (along with http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000690/>Leslie Ann Warren). It took 6 hours and was not unpleasant, but I doubt I'll do it again.

Los Angeles put its early voting poll in a largely minority area (the southern part of the county). Definitely NOT the rich or white part of the city.

Apologies for re-posting this from the other thread- I didn't realise there was a new one. I've added a bit.
As a dual national I registered in my last state of residence (CA) in August, but have not received a ballot. All I got was a another registration application form two weeks ago. My dad, also living overseas and attempting to register in Mississippi, has fared the same. US voting, like US tax, is complicated and postal voting via county officials seems to be unaccountable.
Here in Australia we only vote on candidates, we use pencils and paper to vote, we can vote anywhere in our state, the voting is run by a Federal body, and it is an offense not to register to vote. >95% of the population votes on one day, yet I've never waited longer than 15 minutes even in big city, high density areas.
By the way, in the USA, can people only vote in their local county? Seems like if people could avoid a wait of several hours, they would, so I'm curious why that is. Anyway, it seems high time a US Electoral Commission (Federal) ran voting, and that we dropped the extra issues from the ballot. We elect representatives to handle the housekeeping.

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