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Heavily black and Latino precincts often have long lines; fewer voting machines.

Posted by on Nov. 8, 2014 at 11:48 PM
  • 136 Replies

Read the following until you get tired of it.  Rest.  Then come back and read some more.  Keep resting and reading until you read the whole thing.  That's what I'm doing.  I'm awfully tired, right now.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/minority-voters-election-long-lines-id

Even Without Voter ID Laws, Minority Voters Face More Hurdles to Casting Ballots

Heavily black and Latino precincts often have long lines and fewer voting machines on Election Day. Why?

| Mon Nov. 3, 2014 6:00 AM EST

Over the past decade, Republican legislators have pushed a number of measures critics say are blatant attempts to suppress minority voting, including voter ID requirements, shortened early voting periods, and limits on same-day voter registration. But minority voters are often disenfranchised in another, more subtle way: polling places without enough voting machines or poll workers.

These polling places tend to have long lines to vote. Long lines force people to eventually give up and go home, depressing voter turnout. And that happens regularly all across the country in precincts with lots of minority voters, even without voter ID or other voting restrictions in place.

Nationally, African Americans waited about twice as long to vote in the 2012 election as white people (23 minutes on average versus 12 minutes); Hispanics waited 19 minutes. White people who live in neighborhoods whose residents are less than 5 percent minority had the shortest of all wait times, just 7 minutes. These averages obscure some of the unusually long lines in some areas. In South Carolina's Richland County, which is 48 percent black and is home to 14 percent of the state's African American registered voters, some people waited more than five hours to cast their ballots.

A recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice suggests that a big factor behind these delays was inadequately prepared polling places in heavily minority precincts. Looking at Florida, Maryland, and South Carolina, three states that had some of the longest voting lines in 2012 , the center found a strong correlation between areas with large minority populations and a lack of voting machines and poll workers. In South Carolina, the 10 precincts with the longest waits had more than twice the percentage of black voters (64 percent) as the state as a whole (27 percent).

In the parts of South Carolina with the longest lines (all in Richland County), precincts had an average of only 1 poll worker for every 321 voters, almost twice the state's mandated ratio of 1 to 167. These precincts also had the fewest voting machines relative to registered voters, with some precincts hitting 432 voters per machine. In contrast, precincts with no wait times had an average of 279 voters per machine. State law requires no more than 250 voters per machine, a limit implemented under the Voting Rights ActResearch shows that voter participation starts to drop off sharply when the number of registered voters per machine exceeds that.

Voting difficulties are not only a problem in poor areas; even well-off African Americans have had a hard time voting. Consider, for instance, Prince George's County, Maryland, the wealthiest African American suburb in the country, which has the highest proportion of minority residents of any county in the state. In 2012, P.G. County saw three-hour waits to vote. It had the state's highest number of precincts without the legally required number of voting machines. In most of its precincts, the county had only one voting machine for every 230 registered voters; state law requires no more than 200 voters per machine.

The racially imbalanced distribution of voting resources has spurred allegations that state and local officials are violating the Voting Rights Act, which bars implementing election policies that deny people the right to vote based on race. In 2004, the House Judiciary Committee held field hearings to examine irregularities in voting in Ohio, including long lines in minority areas of the hotly contested swing state in that year's presidential election. Franklin County, which includes Columbus and had twice the proportion of black voters as the rest of the state, was ground zero for long voting lines. Anecdotal evidence suggested that 5,000 to 10,000 people in Columbus walked away from the polls because of long lines. One woman reported that during the four hours she had to wait to vote in Franklin County, her husband died at home alone.

African Americans waited about twice as long to cast ballots in the 2012 election as white voters.

After the 2004 election, University of Michigan political scientist Walter Mebane studied Franklin County for the Democratic National Committee, which wanted to figure out why so many likely Democratic voters had been unable to vote. He found that precincts with large minority populations had nearly 24 percent more registered voters per voting machine than in precincts whose population was less than one-quarter minority. Mebane estimated that the voting machine shortage had reduced potential voter turnout in those areas of Franklin by about 4 percent.Another estimate suggested that roughly 130,000 would-be voters were turned away thanks to long lines. (Those missing votes would not have been enough toswing the state for John Kerry, but they were enough to fuel conspiracy theories for years afterward.)

The Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, sued Virginia shortly before the 2008 presidential election, alleging that African American voters were getting short-changed on voting machines. Mebane's analysis of election officials' plansrevealed that in Richmond and Virginia Beach, the larger the percentage of African American voters in a precinct, the fewer voting machines would be provided. In Richmond, for instance, in areas where fewer than 12 percent of the residents were black, officials planned to provide a voting machine for every 232 registered voters. In areas where residents were virtually all black, there would only be one machine for every 308 registered voters. Nonetheless, a state court threw the case out.

The reasons for the lack of voting machines and long wait times in minority communities isn't always clear. At the county level, it is hard to find evidence of Republican schemes to keep heavily Democratic areas from voting. Local officials are responsible for buying voting machines and staffing polling places. Many of the places with the fewest resources and longest lines are governed by African Americans and Latinos and tend to skew Democratic. Take Maryland's P.G. County. Alisha Alexander, the county's election administrator, told me that voter registrations for the 2012 election far surpassed projections made in the early 2000s, yet the county still had the same number of voting machines. Those machines, purchased in 2001, were nearing the end of their useful lives and could not be easily fixed or replaced since they were no longer being manufactured. "You can't mix and match voting equipment," Alexander explains. State law required the county to use the same type of machine everywhere. "We literally had all of our voting units out in the field between early voting and Election Day, but there was no mechanism to get additional units."

The 2012 election in Richland County, South Carolina, was a disaster that officials are still trying to untangle. Nearly 100 voting machines sat in a warehouse, unused on election night while voters queued up for as long as seven hours to vote at overburdened polling places. (Local conspiracy theorists have suggested—incorrectly—that the election office stiffed precincts on voting machines in areas that opposed a controversial tax proposal that voters rejected in 2010.)

The chairman of the Franklin County GOP explained, "We shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African American—voter turnout machine."

Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied voting wait times, has posited that the problem is likely related to the poor provision of public service in minority areas in general. In other words, if you don't have good trash pick up, your polling station isn't likely to function very well, either.

Regardless of the cause, it is indisputable that African Americans and Latinos often have a much harder time voting than white people. This history inspired many of the election reforms that Republicans are now actively trying to roll back in places like Ohio and North Carolina, which the Supreme Court has essentially approved.

After the disastrous election in Ohio in 2004, state lawmakers and election officials created opportunities for early and absentee voting, and allowed people to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. The state required that every polling station have at least one voting machine for every 175 people. By 2012, roughly a third of all voters cast ballots early and the lines didn't make the evening news.

But since Barack Obama was elected, the GOP-dominated Ohio state Legislature has been working feverishly to roll back those measures, which many Republicans view as too favorable to Democrats. In 2012, Doug Preisse, the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party explained to the Columbus Dispatch, "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African American—voter turnout machine."

In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill killing off what's known as "Golden Week," where people could register and vote on the same day during the first of four weeks of early voting. Following a ballot initiative to overturn the measure, the legislature repealed the law. Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers once again eliminated Golden Week, and the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, issued a rule eliminating early voting on Sundays, the Monday before the election, and all evenings after five o'clock. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state, at first blocking the measure in federal court. But in late September, the Supreme Court allowed the state to proceed.

Early voting and other reforms to make voting easier for everyone were not designed to boost Democrats but simply to even the playing field. That's why the new measures in places such as Ohio and North Carolina that pare back early voting and pile on new ID and registration requirements are likely to create a double whammy for minority voters by compounding existing problems at the polls. Strict new ID requirements in particular are likely to lead to longer lines as voters try to figure out the new system at precincts that may already be suffering from a shortage of poll workers.

Carrie Davis, the executive director of the Ohio League of Women Voters, says it's not yet clear how this year's Election Day will turn out. The state has consolidated polling places due to the success of early and absentee voting in reducing the high demand on Election Day. In 2010, for instance, Franklin County went from 123 precincts to 61. Such moves raise concerns about a return of long lines, particularly in minority precincts. "With the law change and court action, this will be the first time we don't have evening early and in-person voting, so that will impact people. All of these different restrictions, whether they're subtle or obvious, they add up. And that's the concern. Does that put voters off?" Davis wonders.

Probably so. Consider what happened in 2012 in Lee County, a Florida county named after the Confederate general that was subject to a federal school desegregation order until 1999. The number of registered voters in the countyjumped 70,000, from about 320,000 in 2008 to 390,000 in 2012. During the same time, the state provided 14 days of early voting before elections; more than 30,000 of Lee County voters voted early during that period in 2010. Those early voters allowed the county to pare back the resources it needed to deploy on Election Day without causing much disruption to the election. According to theOrlando Sentinel, during that same time the county consolidated its polling stations, shrinking their numbers from 136 to 88.

But in 2011, the state Legislature passed a law reducing the early voting period from 14 to 8 days. The next year, Lee County had some of the state's longest voting lines on Election Day, with some voters waiting as long as five hours. Many others likely gave up without voting. (One study estimated that long lines deterred more than 200,000 people from voting in Florida in 2012.)

Not all Lee County voters were equally inconvenienced. Lee County is about 87 percent white, 19 percent Hispanic, and 9 percent black. Precincts with more than 20 percent Latino voters had on average about 2,000 voters per machine, compared with about 1,500 in areas that were 10 percent or less Latino. In areas of the county where African Americans and Latinos made up 40 to 50 percent of the population, precincts on average had a machine for every 2,150 voters, compared with 1,485 in areas with less than 10 percent minority populations.

Myrna Perez, deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center and a coauthor of its voting study, says that the center hasn't found find any evidence that these sorts of problems were created intentionally. But because their effect is so dramatic, she says something will have to change: "We think that now election officials have been put on notice they have an obligation to address it." Given the trends in most of these contested states, that's not likely to happen any time soon, and especially not before tomorrow's election, when it could make a difference.


by on Nov. 8, 2014 at 11:48 PM
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Replies (1-10):
ArtIsAwesome
by on Nov. 9, 2014 at 3:03 AM
This sounds to me like precincts in poor cities not being able to provide enough voting machines. I couldn't find any evidence from the article that it was racially fueled though. Just curious, how Do precincts obtain the voting machines? Are they issued out by the government for free? Any idea? I can't find any information online that answers that for me.
waldorfmom
by Silver Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 3:40 AM
6 moms liked this

Umm ... "... But minority voters are often disenfranchised in another, more subtle way: polling places without enough voting machines or poll workers.   ..."

Perhaps the author is unaware that poll workers and the number of places to vote are controlled by the people in the community themselves. If too few people VOLUNTEER to spend the day (from 5:30 am to 9 pm) setting up, staffing the tables, and counting/ sealing / transporting the ballot boxes in a careful and responsible way -- then the gov't system in charge of providing voting booths, ballots & the lists of voter names, cannot do anything about it. 

It's not as if "election officials" have a great slush fund available, and they are just refusing to hire workers -- in most places, only the regional chiefs can get paid more than a few bucks. They spend a few weeks training volunteers, trucking the machinery and supplies to each polling place, manning the central trouble-shooting phones, then packing everything up again and delivering the ballots with high security. Very few of these supervising staff are permanent workers. The precinct workers whom you talk to when you go in to vote are only working for that one day, and they receive about $15.

(And despite this, it is still VERY costly to hold an election)

Over the past 20 years, (I was able to be a regular volunteer for a section of my life) I have seen more and more precincts combined together into a single polling location ... because there are not enough people stepping up to shoulder the responsibility. And it has been sharply worse in the last few years.

For one thing, there are perhaps fewer people who can afford to devote a day to this civic task. And I would imagine that this would be even more common in lower income precincts.

When you combine precincts into one location, then of course you have more people congregating there, and creating longer lines. 

All the rest of the article is a long list of anecdotes and observations, but doesn't really address the purported premise and claim of the article.

btamilee
by on Nov. 9, 2014 at 8:31 AM
2 moms liked this

People in the community do indeed foster the load of helping to run the polling sites in our area.  They are volunteers.  Not sure if that is the case everywhere....but it is here.  I look at voting as a privilege.  Just speaking for myself, I would not let standing in line, stop me from the opportunity of voting. 

JTROX
by Platinum Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 8:35 AM
4 moms liked this

It doesn't sound like a race issue.  The whites in those same precincts didn't have separate lines to go faster.  LOL

VooDooB
by on Nov. 9, 2014 at 8:58 AM
1 mom liked this

Reporting the "news".

JonJon
by Ruby Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 9:30 AM

In my state the County's Records and Elections Division provides the machines to the designated polling places.  They provide an overabundance of voting materials.  Only once did we run out of ballots and pens for people to use because the voter turnout was greater than predicted and we kept forgetting to make sure we took the pens back from the voters.  A simple call resulted in one of the troubleshooters that went from precint-to-precint making sure things were running smoothly coming out to bring us more supplies.

Quoting ArtIsAwesome: This sounds to me like precincts in poor cities not being able to provide enough voting machines. I couldn't find any evidence from the article that it was racially fueled though. Just curious, how Do precincts obtain the voting machines? Are they issued out by the government for free? Any idea? I can't find any information online that answers that for me.



JonJon
by Ruby Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Volunteers?  Are they sworn in as poll workers?  As temporary employees of the Records Division pollworkers are sworn to do the job right or be charged with a federal offense.  How do elections officials guarantee volunteers are committed to equal treatment of and fairness to every voter?

It's too easy for biased volunteers to influence the vote or throw away ballots they don't like and to deny people the right to vote.  None of the poll workers in this state are volunteers.  

All poll workers are paid much better than minimum wage which is how the Elections Division makes working as a poll worker attractive enough to get enough people needed to do the work.  At the end of the day a King County Poll Worker can expect a check for somewhere between $120 to over $150 depending on their duties.

The "privacy booths" here look like briefcases we open and assemble.  These "briefcases" are stored at the polling places which are always schools, churches or community rooms in large apartment complexes or senior facilities.  

The vote tabulators are always kept on the premises, too.  No one can tamper with these things as they have no moving parts.  There is a machine inserted and removed from the plastic tabulating boxes.  I once opened one of the tabulator boxes to find a whole bunch of absentee and provisional ballots in there that were overlooked during the last election.  This happens because while we pay our workers the Elections Division only trains poll workers about 12 (paid) hours over two consecutive days.  

I find it hard to believe they spend weeks training each of your volunteers who work for a measly $15 at the end of a 15-hour day.  Do you mean weeks taking turns training groups of volunteers at the specially designated training facilities?

If and when they combine precints you can be assured the precient will be located in a neighborhood more accessible to whites and it is the minorities who have to travel farther and longer to stand in line longer.  The people who live nearby can stop in while walking their dogs or on the way to work are are usually the first inside the polling place and don't have to wait.

Believe it or not, poor people don't always have the resources to travel outside their neighborhoods and some are too intimidated to go into white neigborhoods.  I will go anywhere but I admit that I'm a bit wary going into higher-income neighborhoods and have felt that way for years when I realized how easy it is to be shot just because you "look" suspicious and black people look suspicious in upscale neighborhoods even when driving a luxury car and wearing designer clothes.

Nothing would stop me from voting.  I have ridden the bus into unfamiliar neighborhoods to vote.  I'd ride a bus to the richest neighborhood we have wearing rags to exercise my right to vote.

Quoting waldorfmom:

Umm ... "... But minority voters are often disenfranchised in another, more subtle way: polling places without enough voting machines or poll workers.   ..."

Perhaps the author is unaware that poll workers and the number of places to vote are controlled by the people in the community themselves. If too few people VOLUNTEER to spend the day (from 5:30 am to 9 pm) setting up, staffing the tables, and counting/ sealing / transporting the ballot boxes in a careful and responsible way -- then the gov't system in charge of providing voting booths, ballots & the lists of voter names, cannot do anything about it. 

It's not as if "election officials" have a great slush fund available, and they are just refusing to hire workers -- in most places, only the regional chiefs can get paid more than a few bucks. They spend a few weeks training volunteers, trucking the machinery and supplies to each polling place, manning the central trouble-shooting phones, then packing everything up again and delivering the ballots with high security. Very few of these supervising staff are permanent workers. The precinct workers whom you talk to when you go in to vote are only working for that one day, and they receive about $15.

(And despite this, it is still VERY costly to hold an election)

Over the past 20 years, (I was able to be a regular volunteer for a section of my life) I have seen more and more precincts combined together into a single polling location ... because there are not enough people stepping up to shoulder the responsibility. And it has been sharply worse in the last few years.

For one thing, there are perhaps fewer people who can afford to devote a day to this civic task. And I would imagine that this would be even more common in lower income precincts.

When you combine precincts into one location, then of course you have more people congregating there, and creating longer lines. 

All the rest of the article is a long list of anecdotes and observations, but doesn't really address the purported premise and claim of the article.



JonJon
by Ruby Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 10:01 AM
1 mom liked this

If you don't mind, where do you live that the people responsible for elections are too poor to run a proper election?

Quoting waldorfmom:

Umm ... "... But minority voters are often disenfranchised in another, more subtle way: polling places without enough voting machines or poll workers.   ..."

Perhaps the author is unaware that poll workers and the number of places to vote are controlled by the people in the community themselves. If too few people VOLUNTEER to spend the day (from 5:30 am to 9 pm) setting up, staffing the tables, and counting/ sealing / transporting the ballot boxes in a careful and responsible way -- then the gov't system in charge of providing voting booths, ballots & the lists of voter names, cannot do anything about it. 

It's not as if "election officials" have a great slush fund available, and they are just refusing to hire workers -- in most places, only the regional chiefs can get paid more than a few bucks. They spend a few weeks training volunteers, trucking the machinery and supplies to each polling place, manning the central trouble-shooting phones, then packing everything up again and delivering the ballots with high security. Very few of these supervising staff are permanent workers. The precinct workers whom you talk to when you go in to vote are only working for that one day, and they receive about $15.

(And despite this, it is still VERY costly to hold an election)

Over the past 20 years, (I was able to be a regular volunteer for a section of my life) I have seen more and more precincts combined together into a single polling location ... because there are not enough people stepping up to shoulder the responsibility. And it has been sharply worse in the last few years.

For one thing, there are perhaps fewer people who can afford to devote a day to this civic task. And I would imagine that this would be even more common in lower income precincts.

When you combine precincts into one location, then of course you have more people congregating there, and creating longer lines. 

All the rest of the article is a long list of anecdotes and observations, but doesn't really address the purported premise and claim of the article.



JonJon
by Ruby Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM
1 mom liked this

I look at voting as my right and I've stood in line a couple times to vote and I live where it rains, a lot and I and other people got drenched waiting for the door to open.

If you get in line after dropping your kindergartner off at school and three to five hours later you haven't gotten to the door of the polling place you have to leave to go get the kid(s), then take them home for lunch, etc.  Very few people would come back to wait in line another three to five hours with a five year old no matter how well-behaved.  If you're standing in line with a kindergartner who has afternoon session then you have to leave the line to take the child to school.  You may return to stand in line some more but you still have to leave the line at three o'clock.  It would make voting very frustrating and difficult.

Some people can't stand in long lines because they have to go to work.  Some can stand in the line for hours after work but that's tough when you're dog-tired.  It's also tough where they close the polls at 7 and 8.  All polls should close at 9.

I saw a post titled something like, "Why isn't election day a holiday?"  Wouldn't that make a lot of sense?  People would have all day to vote giving them all sorts of flexibility.  People can carpool to the polls instead of to work; can take turns watching each other's kids so they can stand in line and vote without distractions.  We need to phone our Congressmen and ask them to create Election Day as a national holiday.

Quoting btamilee:

People in the community do indeed foster the load of helping to run the polling sites in our area.  They are volunteers.  Not sure if that is the case everywhere....but it is here.  I look at voting as a privilege.  Just speaking for myself, I would not let standing in line, stop me from the opportunity of voting. 



JonJon
by Ruby Member on Nov. 9, 2014 at 10:34 AM

On average white people stand in line half as long as minorities, about 23 minutes.  In precints where everyone is white they stand in line an average of seven minutes.

Quoting JTROX:

It doesn't sound like a race issue.  The whites in those same precincts didn't have separate lines to go faster.  LOL



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