Long lines, mal­func­tion­ing ma­chines mar bal­lot­ing

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS -

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. Effects of this lack­lus­ter effort 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.


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