News Release

Long Lines on Election Day: A Form of Voter Suppression?


Norden is the director of the Voting Technology Project at the Brennan Center for Justice. The Brennan Center, Common Cause and Verified Voting recently issued a 50-state report card that grades each state on its preparedness for election system breakdowns.

Norden said today: “There’s no question that in the last few years, election officials around the country have made dramatic improvements that will make it much less likely that voters are disenfranchised due to voting system failures. Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every voter will get to vote and every vote will be counted if something goes wrong with voting systems on Election Day.”

The report recommends: “Election officials [should] have backup measures in place — like emergency paper ballots and sound ballot counting procedures — to ensure the integrity of the vote. … Of the 24 states that use voting machines, eight states, including Colorado and Virginia, have no guidance or requirement to stock emergency paper ballots at the polls. In contrast, 12 states, including Ohio and North Carolina, recommend emergency paper ballots to be given to voters if machine failures are causing long lines.”

Fogel is the director of FairVote. He said today: “FairVote surveyed 96 out of 134 Virginia city and county election officials and found that the state does not have a standardized method for allocating poll booths, which may cause long lines on Election Day. Long lines are often caused by an inadequate number of poll booths and have plagued voters, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods, in the past several election cycles.”

Fogel added: “Students hoping to vote on campus in Virginia may be disappointed. Thirty-two of the jurisdictions surveyed have a community college or university and of those, only two will have on-campus polling locations for November.” Previous state readiness reports prepared by FairVote include Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado.

Wilson is a co-director of Save Our Votes. She said today: “The 2004 and 2006 general elections in Maryland were accompanied by very long lines, with voters in some locations waiting for hours to vote. Many may leave without having the opportunity to cast a ballot, or may decide not to go to the polls when they hear news reports of long lines. Measures that could ease election-day congestion, such as early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, have been blocked by Maryland’s courts. A study by physicist William Edelstein predicts that many Maryland polling places could again experience wait times of greater than two hours this November.”

Wilson added: “The best way to ensure an efficient election and to avoid disenfranchising voters would be for Maryland’s State Board of Elections to authorize the use of emergency ballots to prevent or reduce long lines. Other states, such as Ohio, have already taken this prudent step to ensure that all voters will be able to cast a ballot on election day.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167