Long lines, malfunctioning machines mar balloting
Of all the things government shouldn’t skimp on, keeping election machinery in working condition and enough polls open so everyone can cast ballots ought to be at the top of the list. But either by egregious design or mindless planning, government keeps putting obstacles in the way of voters.
In the mindless category, counties and states have been eliminating polling places since 2012, often to save money. And voting machines, which were modernized after the 2000 Bush-Gore election debacle, have grown decrepit. More than 40 states use machines that are no longer manufactured, turning repairs into a hunt for second-hand parts that often work poorly.
This is no way to ensure that Americans get to exercise their right to vote. Effects of this lackluster effort showed up across the country Tuesday. Reports of malfunctioning voting machines — including some switching people’s votes — poured in from more than a dozen states to Election Protection, a coalition of about 100 civil- and voting-rights groups doing what should be the government’s job.
In Arizona’s Maricopa County, where many sites were closed in 2016, some polling places couldn’t even open on time. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere, machines broke down. In Georgia, lines stretched around a poll site in Atlanta, and some voters in Snellville — where nearly half the population is minority — waited for more than four hours outside one site because machines weren’t working.
Decrepit machines, along with fewer polling places and poll workers, leave voters confused about where to vote, having to travel longer distances, often waiting in long lines or giving up without voting.
The only thing worse? Republicans who control the voting machinery in states and purposely try to suppress voters.
Georgia was ground zero for this disgusting strategy. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the GOP candidate for governor, employed all sorts of draconian measures that looked like they would keep minority voters from the polls. Similar strategies were at work from North Carolina to Kansas.
Back in 1977, after Jimmy Carter won the bellwether state of Ohio and the presidency, a top Ohio Republican was asked how his party lost. He quipped, “Because too many people voted.”
Suppressing the vote has become an all-too-common strategy. It should end, along with brainless planning that deprives voters of a cherished constitutional right.