Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Waiting to Vote in Ohio

This is something I overlooked yesterday, but it's important enough to talk about even today. Yes, I know that Dan Rather is going to retire, and yes, I know that hunters have been hunted to death and a woman has cut off the arms of her baby daughter. I also know that approximately a billion mothers did not cut off the arms of their children today and that very few hunters were hunted to death. (I'm not downplaying the seriousness of these news; I'm just stressing their rarity.) But large amounts of voters, many of them minorities, had to wait in line to vote all over the country, and some of this waiting could have easily been avoided. This description is from Ohio:

In precinct 55-B on Columbus' near east side, there were 1,338 registered voters and, according to Franklin County Board of Elections estimates, 956 active voters who had voted in the last two federal elections. Despite voter registration being up 17%, and by the BOE's own guidelines the polling place requiring ten machines (one per 100 voters), the polling site had only three machines, one less than for the 2000 elections.
The Election Protection Coalition that visited the voting site between 7:30-8:30 a.m. documented a dozen people leaving the polls, six to go to work and six who were either elderly or handicapped. But things were worse in other areas of Columbus.
In precinct 1-B where there were 1,620 registered voters, a 27% increase in voter registration, the precinct had five voting machines in 2000 and only three in 2004. Where did they go? Out to Republican enclaves like Canal Winchester, where two machines were added since 2000, for a total of five to service 1,255 registered voters? Or were they re-routed to Dublin 2-G where 1,656 registered voters apparently needed six machines, twice the number of Columbus' 1-B?
Nearby in Dublin precinct 3-C, 910 registered voters were allocated four voting machines. No doubt machines were shifted from precincts like Columbus 44-G with 1,620 voters and registration up 25%, which lost one machine from the 2000 elections to 2004.

One would think that there has been ample opportunity to practise running elections in this country, given that we have been having them a while now. This raises the possibility that the cause for the long waits is not in your average bureaucratic incompetence. Whatever the case, this situation is not acceptable and remedies must be demanded.