Long lines and wait times during early voting. Such an issue not only discourages people from voting but also contributes to social inequality, disproportionately affecting black and white voters as well as wage workers that don’t get paid for time off to vote. In the 2020 presidential election, voters in Georgia experienced exceptionally long, sometimes up to 11 hours-long wait times at the polling stations. Different factors impacting the situation were identified, such as voter enthusiasm, understaffing, a limited number of polls, and computer glitches; however, the issue is not only attributed to the 2020 election. Several studies have shown that, in 2016, black voters had to wait 16 minutes in line on average, while white voters waited 10 minutes.
My vision is a world where everyone has an opportunity to vote without waiting in hours-long lines, regardless of their race and skin color. People should be able to participate in voting and guarantee the convenience and fairness of the process, while prolonged wait times and other voter suppression signs can prevent individuals from participating in democracy. Furthermore, if the voting opportunities are not equal and balanced for all Americans, the opinions and experiences of some citizens will not be considered, contradicting the principles of fair elections. In times of the global pandemic and social distancing, this issue endangers people’s safety and imposes health risks associated with the need to wait for an unreasonably long time to cast a ballot during early voting. Hence, the protection and guarantee of voter rights need to be ensured by fighting Election Day barriers and voter suppression.
Who is doing work in this area
Election officials are responsible for the orderly voting process at polling stations, appointing staff to manage the information programs and voter education on behalf of the election authority. Apart from appropriate information, there is a need for a timely appointing of poll workers and presiding officers to ensure a sufficient number of competent people able to help voters with the election process. Furthermore, the staff is tasked with more functions such as responsibility for media releases, the training of poll workers and election officials, and human relations management handling. Besides, executive officers and commissioners of the authority have a role in public communications, impacting voters’ behaviors, perceptions, and knowledge. Management of all these functions can help prevent voter rights violations as well as a waste of resources.
The organizations working on this issue
Several organizations work towards protecting voting rights and assisting people who face challenges during their voting experience. For instance, When We All Vote is a non-profit organization aiming to increase all people’s participation in the election process and eliminate the race and age voting gap. Such values alight with my vision and goal since When We All Vote helps change the culture about voting and involves more people, reaching out to every American regardless of their race. The organization raises awareness of the harms that voter suppression causes, including a disproportionate impact on voters of color, and aims to promote everyone’s access to early voting, vote by mail, and online voter registration.
Provide access to time-efficient, fair, and inclusive voting. Historically, voters of color more often have to wait longer to cast their ballot, and the situation during the 2020 presidential elections has shown that the issue is still not resolved. Especially under the COVID-19 risks, many communities rely on early voting, and election officials must ensure the proper organization of in-person options for voters and no obstacles increase people’s wait time, endangering their health. The goal is to prevent intentional and unintentional voting rights violations and ensure a timely and efficient process of election for all Americans since a failure to do so can have far-reaching consequences.
Improve the electoral administration and take measures to make voting easy and convenient for all citizens, regardless of race. Even though numerous reasons can affect the election process and expand the voters’ wait time, election officials are responsible for ensuring that proper measures are taken to avoid discrepancies. Considering and addressing community needs, as well as learning from common mistakes, can account for better planning and sufficient staffing and training for in-person voting. The Elections Office can benefit from data monitoring to identify where voter suppression is noticed and take the appropriate corrective actions.
Possible Actionable Steps
- Increasing early voting opportunities to relieve overcrowding at polling stations and reduce the workload of the election officials.
- Preventing polling places closures in certain areas to eliminate the adverse impacts on communities of color.
- Providing proper training and sufficient funding for poll workers to ensure their compliance with policies and adequate equipment for places.
- Closing the language gap and providing language assistance for non-English speaking communities to offer a welcoming and convenient voting experience.
- Supporting non-profit organizations that raise people’s awareness of how to deal with voting rights violations and spread knowledge.