The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 18, 2012

Voting process needs retooling

Associated Press

— The Gadsden Times on voting lines:

Nearly 120 million people in the U.S. voted recently, and the endurance course many of them had to negotiate in doing so would test the hardiest and toughest Marine.

Voters across the country stood in line for hours, in heat and cold, some of them literally passing out, just to cast their ballots.

It happened in red states and blue states; large states and small states; swing states and those where the outcome never was in doubt; states where there was an explanation (Hurricane Sandy-ravaged New Jersey and New York) and others where there was no apparent reason other than a lot of people were motivated to vote.

The biggest mess was in Florida, which had a huge turnout of voters and a bloated, 12-page ballot for them to consider. The final votes didn’t get cast until 1 a.m. local time, six hours after the polls were supposed to close. There were reports of seven-hour waits to vote — and of people giving up and going home.

Four-hour waits were reported in Colorado, Michigan, South Carolina and Virginia. There were three-hour waits in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas.

Closer to home, people waited more than two hours, in a line that snaked for a block, to vote at a precinct in Irondale, and for a similar time at a site in Madison County.

Some of the delays were caused by equipment malfunctions, which are going to happen. A lack of poll workers because of state budget cuts also was blamed. We accept those economic realities, but the operation of elections still should carry a high priority even in the tightest budgets.

The biggest issue may be the sheer scope of trying to get 120 million voters in 50 states and the District of Columbia to the polls for an election. It cannot be done within a 12-hour window on a single day anymore.

Some states have tried to ease the pressure with early voting, an idea we’ve said is worth considering, along with moving Election Day to a weekend or making it a national holiday to give people more flexibility in getting to the polls.

There are folks who think this isn’t a major problem, who describe those who complain as whiners unwilling to expend any effort to vote.

Expending effort to vote is one thing. Going through an ordeal to do so is another.