Biggest Obstacle to Fair Election May Be Long Lines

Created: November 04, 2008 09:02 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Forget the claims of voter fraud, like Disney characters and dead people voting. The real problem in this election is likely to be not that ineligible people show up to vote, but that lots of eligible voters never make it through the long lines and bureaucratic hurdles to cast ballots on Election Day.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is rightly calling it a “poll tax” — the hours-long lines that many people will have to endure to exercise the most basic of American rights. It’s a right that many Americans — who have full-time jobs, child care and other responsibilities — simply can’t afford.

In Virginia, the NAACP tried suing over it, charging that the state is clearly unable to handle the predicted historic voter turnout on Tuesday — and lost. On Monday, a federal judge refused to order any changes.

In Pennsylvania, officials have said they fear an electoral flood — with not nearly enough voting machines to handle the expected before- and after-work crowds.

To Ed Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University, “the most worrisome threat on the horizon from a national perspective is the potential that states won’t be able to handle the volume of voters on Tuesday.”

This is all aside from the various criminally fraudulent tactics that have tried to keep people away from the polls: by threatening their arrest; telling them to vote on the wrong day. or even, via robocall, offering voters to vote by phone.

When the most historic presidential election in decades could be decided based not on voter preferences but on a combination of who’s least duped or intimidated, whose names are least subject to typos in bureaucratic databases and who can afford to wait longest on line, that’s a real problem.

All these claims of voter fraud, vote suppression and registration shenanigans may have the unfortunate effect of casting doubt on the legitimacy of the next president.

The one good thing that could come out of this glaring spotlight on the absurd mechanics of voting in this country could be, finally, a real push for future voting reform.