How the U.S. voting system is preventing people from … voting
Voter ID laws aren’t the only problem. In fact, they hardly scratch the surface.
By EMILY DERUY
The U.S. voting system is broken, and attempts to fix it have been largely ineffective. Voter identification laws from Arizona to Pennsylvania (The link to the Spanish-version of their voter information site works now) have sparked controversy, with some Democrats arguing that they are meant to keep minorities from casting ballots.
But according to the New York Times, there are worse problems with everything from ballot design to absentee voting.
A bipartisan commission in Ohio recommended ways to reduce the number of provisional ballots and long lines at polling places, but nothing came of the suggestions. A redesign of widely criticized ballots in New York was passed by the State Assembly there, but no changes have been made. A commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III in 2005 pointed out that many voters were registered in multiple states simultaneously, but no investigation occurred.
Gridlock would be an understatement.
“The proponents of voter ID are adamant that it is essential to stop electoral fraud even though there is hardly any evidence of voter impersonation, and the opponents are sure that it will lead to voter suppression even though they haven’t been able — until Pennsylvania — to point to a single instance where a voter could not vote because of a lack of ID,” Robert A. Pastor, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University and executive director of the Carter-Baker commission told the Times.
He added that the key problem is registration, not IDs. According to the Times, there are 13,000 separate rolls maintained by counties, towns and municipalities, which makes it difficult to know basic information like whether voters still actually live where they are registered.
A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law predicts that as many as 400,000 people had absentee or provisional ballots rejected because of technical mistakes on the forms or envelopes in the 2008 and 2010 general elections.
There have been a number of studies done to determine basics such as the best instructions and fonts for ballots, but partisan divides over what, if anything, should be done have slowed any progress. And in races as tight as the 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be leave plenty of room for error.