Signs are piling up that polling problems may be widespread in the November presidential election. The Super Tuesday primary elections this week offered a taste of what could become a debacle if steps aren’t taken now to avert it.
Long lines in two of the nation’s most populous states, Texas and California, told the tale. Reports from Texas were that some voters waited up to six hours to cast a ballot. Some California voters waited three to four hours.
The problem was so severe that the Bernie Sanders campaign asked the federal court to order California polls to remain open until 10 p.m. and to accommodate any voters waiting in line.
USA Today reported that some voters there waited in lines only to be told that new touch-screen voting machines had broken down.
In both states, voters stood in hours-long lines because poll workers failed to show up due to fear of the spreading coronavirus.
Predictions of huge early voting numbers caused some officials to reduce the number of polling places and the number of voting machines. Texas reportedly had eliminated 750 polling places since 2012.
The states, which are responsible for elections, can and must fix the problems or risk throwing the nation into chaos after the November elections. Any restrictions on voting will fuel distrust in the system and heap more distrust on a federal government already in disrepute.
The federal government could help by providing enough funding to address the problems. It should also declare the first Tuesday in November a national holiday to allow more people to vote.
The fact that working people can’t take a day off the job to stand in long lines to vote unquestionably skews results. By and large, they are younger voters. Exit polls in California and Texas showed that just 15 percent of voters were under the age of 30 and almost 66 percent were 45 or older.
Forcing voters to surmount high hurdles to employ the power of the ballot box fuels discouragement, powerlessness and skepticism. It breaks the bond that makes the United States a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It leaves it as a government only “of the people who can wait in line.”