Communities frequently served by nonprofits made impressive gains in the electorate this year. However, there are still a number of electoral improvements that can be made.
Shorter Lines, More Early In-Person Voting
A curtailed in-person early voting period in Florida led to 7 hour lines, discouraged voters, and an overwhelmed system. On Election Day, voters in Miami-Dade County waited in line until 1am to cast a ballot. In Ohio, the periods for casting a ballot early in-person and by mail were reduced. Early in-person voting the weekend before Election Day was initially eliminated but later restored through the courts due to the estimated 100,000 Ohioans expected to cast ballots in the three days before November 6th. Snaking lines of early voters were captured across the state.
Although long lines can be the result of a lengthy ballot, expanding–rather than eliminating–early voting opportunities can reduce wait times, offer voters increased flexibility, and ease the strain on election offices.
Improved Voter Registration
All eligible voters should have the opportunity to cast a ballot that will be counted. Unfortunately, voters across the country arrived at the polls only to discover that their name was not on the rolls. The first step in fixing this is to ensure that voters can register easily. Many states have implemented online voter registration, streamlining the registration process. California’s online registration system went live for the first time in September and over one million Californians used it to register in the course of five weeks. 49% of new registrants were between the ages of 18 and 29.
Additionally, online platforms that allow voters to verify their registration status can reduce problems at the polls. Not every state has this kind of tool, and currently in Massachusetts when voters need to confirm their registration status on Election Day they have to call their city hall, leading to long hold times and inefficient processing.
Fixing Problems on Election Day
Beyond improvements to advanced registration, Election Day Registration (EDR) allows voters to update or correct their voter registration information at their polling site on Election Day. EDR ensures that recent moves or name changes do not impact a voter’s ability to participate. This kind of flexibility makes it easier to participate and states that have Election Day Registration consistently lead the nation in voter turnout.
While 2012 was a great indicator of rising turnout, there are still improvements to be made. All eligible voters who want to participate should be able to make their voices heard at the polls–without waiting 7 hours.