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Election Day:

Mike Wilbon, in today's Washington Post sports pages, reports that in the 17 presidential elections since 1940, the incumbent party has prevailed whenever the Washington Redskins won their last home game prior to the election, while the incumbent party has been turned out whenever the 'Skins lost their last home game before the election. [With one exception - 2004]. As you may know, the Steelers came into Washington last night and trounced the Redskins 23-6.
There was a wonderful scene at my polling place this morning. I must admit that I love Election Day -- there's something charming about the scene at our local elementary school, with the kids all running around, the bake sale in the lobby to raise money for the school, the incredibly earnest polling place volunteers and poll-watchers, the crowds just beyond the "No Electioneering Beyond This Point" sign handing out flyers, etc. When I went this morning, there was a group of about a dozen middle-aged men and women, all dressed up in their snazziest clothes, taking photos of one another in front of the school. Turns out they were all recently-naturalized citizens from Colombia, and they were celebrating their first time in a US voting booth. Everyone walking by could see what was going on, and had a big smile on his or her face - a nice moment, and nice to be reminded of what a big deal this voting thing that we do really is.
Like many of my co-bloggers here, I am outraged by many things involved in the way we conduct our elections. I care a lot less, though, about a few dead people who may be voting in Cleveland than I do about the millions and millions of people who are unable to exercise the franchise because they have work to do and can't take several hours out of their schedules to stand on line at their local polling places. I cannot for the life of me understand why we simultaneously (a) inexplicably refuse to hold our elections on a Sunday, when working people have time to spend in non-working pursuits, and, in addition, why we (b) seem to be unable to handle unusually large numbers of voters at many polling places, resulting in lines that are often two or three or more hours long. I happen not to regard "early voting" as a terrific solution to this problem -- I think we lose a great deal if we discard the notion of a single ceremonial day when everyone stops what they're doing to go and vote. It's preferable, I suppose, to a system that has widespread breakdowns and delays on Election Day - but really, why can't we apply our vaunted American efficiency to get the process working right? Why can't I walk in to the poll, swipe a magnetic card to turn on the voting machine, record my vote, and get on with things?

Sk (mail):
"I care a lot less, though, about a few dead people who may be voting in Cleveland than I do about the millions and millions of people who are unable to exercise the franchise because they have work to do and can't take several hours out of their schedules to stand on line at their local polling places."

Its very unusual for people to have to work 12 hours on election day-it is unlikely that 'millions and millions' have to do so.

Its very unusual for people to have to "take several hours out of their schedules to stand in line at their local polling places"-it is unlikely that 'millions and millions have to do so.

And besides:

"Early and absentee voting laws vary widely, and are decided on a state level.
Fast Facts
32 states allow no-excuse pre-Election Day in-person voting - either early voting on a voting machine or in-person absentee voting.
14 states and the District of Columbia require an excuse for in-person absentee voting
1 state is all vote-by mail
4 states do not allow early or in-person absentee voting
28 states allow no-excuse absentee voting by mail"
22 states and the District of Columbia require an excuse to vote absentee by mail"

In other words: your concerns are based on uninformed (probably willfully uninformed) idiocy.

Sk
11.4.2008 9:50am
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
The magnetic card would be problematic. Wouldn't that constitute an ID requirement?
11.4.2008 9:51am
ChrisIowa (mail):
The only reason for long lines at polls on election day is incompetent local election officials, unwilling to commit the needed resources.
11.4.2008 9:56am
Mike S..:
Not everyone works in an office; many people work on Sunday.

At least in my precinct, the major inefficiency is that the rolls are checked by volunteers who tend to be quite elderly (presumably because they have the time) and, between hearing and sight problems, tend to have a hard time flipping through the rolls, which are sorted by address, to find the voter.
11.4.2008 9:59am
ChrisIowa (mail):
Part of the problem is unfamiliar electronic voting machines, and voters taking undue amounts of time. Use a scanned paper ballot. Easily understood, leaves re-countable evidence, and its easy to open up more voting booths if lines get long. You only need one scanner at each precinct, to serve multiple voting booths.
11.4.2008 10:01am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
As an Obama supporter and Dallas Cowboys fan, I can hardly suppress my glee at the Redkins' misfortune.
11.4.2008 10:02am
Reader (mail):
I went to vote, waited in line 45 minutes, and bailed to go to work. I agree with David - what a crappy system. I guess I can vote when I retire.
11.4.2008 10:02am
M:
We are blessed to live in a country where power is handed over to a new administration in a generally orderly fashion. Republican or Democrat, each administration participates in transitioning power to the new folks. There are no tanks in the streets. Someone wins. Someone loses. We move on to the next phase. And we all get to participate. I hope we can all remember that this is a relatively new phenomenon and too rare in our time.

As for the early voting -- I won't get into my arguments against it. I personally wouldn't do it because I absolutely love going to vote and even waiting in line. I like hanging out with my fellow citizens as we go through the process together.

But then again, as evidenced by this entire comment, I am a giant cheeseball when it comes to this stuff. I am not ashamed to admit it!
11.4.2008 10:03am
therut (mail):
Well I do not know why election day is not the same day taxes are due? That would be better. One of the nice things about living in a rural area is it is kinda hard to have to wait in line to vote with only 70 souls to vote.
11.4.2008 10:05am
finman:
I agree. I went to the polling station this morning but refused to wait in line for 45 minutes to cast my vote (even though I live in a battleground state). The current system discriminates against people whose time is valuable.
11.4.2008 10:06am
Aultimer:

Sk:

In other words: your concerns are based on uninformed (probably willfully uninformed) idiocy.



Your count-of-states metric is "idiotic," as it suggests that a count of states is a meaningful representation of the number of voters affected. In fact, many of the states that require in-person votes and excuses have large populations.
11.4.2008 10:07am
glangston (mail):
Millions and millions unable to vote?

Just a few names please?
11.4.2008 10:08am
JB:
Why can't I walk in to the poll, swipe a magnetic card to turn on the voting machine, record my vote, and get on with things? '

Because obstructionist left-wingers would oppose that as being an ID requirement intended to disenfranchise the poor and minorities, and to the degree that right-wingers are in charge of polling places it would be.

The win-at-all-costs mentality both sides have precludes any reforms, because each side would use the reform for their own advantage, thus dooming it to not be an improvement.
11.4.2008 10:16am
Norman Bates (mail):
I've never understood why we don't make election day a solemnly celebrated holiday along the lines of Memorial Day or Armistice Veterans Day. This would both encourage people to vote and make clear the sacred nature of the voting process in a democratic republic.

You're lucky to be in a place where voting is so orderly. A lack of concern over dead people voting can quickly lead to more egregious fraud. This will obviously lead to biases in favor of the more corrupt party. See for example: Philly 2004 Redux
11.4.2008 10:17am
Philistine (mail):

Millions and millions unable to vote?

Just a few names please?



Well, finman and Reader, so far in this thread....

Personally, I wonder whether making election day a holiday (or moving it to a weekend) would increase or decrease turnout. I could see it going either way.
11.4.2008 10:24am
David Warner:
"I cannot for the life of me understand why we simultaneously (a) inexplicably refuse to hold our elections on a Sunday, when working people have time to spend in non-working pursuits, and, in addition, why we (b) seem to be unable to handle unusually large numbers of voters at many polling places, resulting in lines that are often two or three or more hours long."

We, kimosabe? Might want to investigate the correlation between line length and political affiliation of those administering the election by locality.
11.4.2008 10:26am
Gary Imhoff (mail) (www):
I'm sick of all this whining about how inconvenient it is to have to go in person to a polling place, and possibly to stand in line for almost as long as you stand in line for the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride at Disneyland.

The usual explanation of why our elections were scheduled for November is that that month was late enough that farmers could take the time off to vote, and early enough that the roads were still good enough to use; and that elections were scheduled for the first Tuesday after the first Monday because many people would not travel on Sunday, and they would need a full day on Monday to travel to the county seat to get to the polling place on Tuesday.

When you go to that much trouble to vote, let's talk about inconvenience.
11.4.2008 10:27am
Samuel Clemens:
The law in Minnesota requires that employers allow their employees to be absent the morning of election day without penalty, with pay. While some might think this policy would encourage abuse, in my professional life the only effect I've seen is that some folks might turn up a little late for work. This is one of the factors, along with election day registration, that contributes to the near 80% turnout in the state.
11.4.2008 10:33am
ChrisIowa (mail):

Why can't I walk in to the poll, swipe a magnetic card to turn on the voting machine, record my vote, and get on with things?

If you really, really want electronics involved, along with the potential problems that power outages, unfamiliarity with technology etc, an Iowa Driver's license is already scan-able, and keyed to an address. The driver's license database would serve as a voter registration list and would only need a supplemental data base for those who do not have a driver's license.
11.4.2008 10:36am
PC:
When you go to that much trouble to vote, let's talk about inconvenience.

Back in my day we had to walk ten miles to school, in the snow, up hill, both ways!
11.4.2008 10:38am
PLR:
It took me 38 minutes to vote this morning. I consider it time well spent.
11.4.2008 10:40am
SeaDrive:

There was a wonderful scene at my polling place this morning. I must admit that I love Election Day -- there's something charming about the scene at our local elementary school, with the kids all running around, the bake sale in the lobby to raise money for the school, the incredibly earnest polling place volunteers and poll-watchers, the crowds just beyond the "No Electioneering Beyond This Point" sign handing out flyers, etc.


I vote in an elementary school. There was a former principle who was very shrewd, and always had the most wonderful student art displayed in the hallway voters walk through. It makes a huge impression about the quality of the school.
11.4.2008 10:44am
...Max... (mail):
Random data point: I have spent all of 3 minutes in line this morning (around 8am), right after walking my daughter to school. The dreaded DieBold machine wasn't any glitchier than your average ATM. And, there was an option to vote a straight Libertarian ticket (which, incidentally, I didn't avail myself of)! In fact, Libertarian contenders slightly outnumbered the Democratic ones.

North Plano, Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
11.4.2008 10:48am
Nifonged:
"Well, finman and Reader, so far in this thread.... "

Per my interpretation one of said people did vote and the other chose not to, I waited in line from 6:00 to 6:30 today to vote, but when I drove in to work at 8:00 there wasn't even a line (at least outside, if there was inside it couldn't have been more than a 5 minute wait). None of my co-workers reported any issue with voting, and

Seriously, "millions and millions" and "several hours?" Leaving aside the lack of necessity to write "millions and millions" (why isn't millions alone enough to make the (unfounded) point?), why the exaggeration?
11.4.2008 10:52am
Eli Rabett (www):
Voter registration is a disaster. Ballots are overly complex (too many offices, too many inititives) to vote quickly. Both have to be the first order of business in January.

This probably means a central registry of voters. So what.
11.4.2008 10:53am
Reader (mail):
As I noted above, I, for one, did not vote. My wife and I are wondering what kind of job you can have that ALLOWS you to vote. Is it really hard to believe that making people stand in line for 3 hours prevents many people from voting?

I would note that I have also not gone on the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride, and will never do so if it requires waiting in line for 2 or 3 hours on a work day. I presume a student or housewife wrote the comment about the Raiders line.
11.4.2008 10:55am
Fedya (www):
Don't forget there are religious groups that would have a problem with Sunday or Saturday voting.

I think the big reason why voting takes so long here in the States is that we have one unified election day. Not only the Presidential vote, but the national legislative vote, and the state and local votes, take place on the same day. It makes it a logistical nightmare to have separate paper ballots for each race, and probably causes people to spend more time in the voting booth than they otherwise would.

I don't know, though, whether turnout would increase if the different levels of government held their elections at different times.
11.4.2008 10:58am
Eli Rabett (www):
Let me add that the drivers' license, and passport data bases are a start, but we should then proactively seek out those who do not drive (or don't have non-drivers' official ID). This should be a fully FUNDED mandate for the states.

We can track most change of addresses through the Post Office and utility companies.

What rational people object to is putting the cost of obtaining the identification on the voter.
11.4.2008 11:00am
MarkField (mail):
I share David Warner's cynicism regarding the reasons for the long lines. I would like to see a national registration system for federal elections, with minimum requirements for the number of machines, ready access to paper ballots for those who want them, and a few other reforms. I'd also switch the election to Sat/Sun in order to make it easier to get time off (and to accomodate religious views).

OTOH, just to add some perspective, I'm reading Harold Holzer's new book on Lincoln and he mentions that voting lines in NY and Chicago were 2-3 hours long in 1860 (turnout was 82%, which, for all I know, is the record). Of course, counting Lincoln's votes in states like Alabama wouldn't have taken very long....
11.4.2008 11:03am
Nifonged:
"inexplicably refuse to hold our elections on a Sunday, when working people have time to spend in non-working pursuits"

Jeez, missed this the first time reading,

(1) Who (besides David Post) thinks that working people don't work Sundays? Not everyone is an academic, or a banker, or generally works banking hours. The following list contains examples of workers who work on Sunday: policemen, firemen, attorneys at BIGLAW firms, hotel workers, gas station workers, restaurant workers, retail workers, factory workers, airline workers, public transportation workers, taxi workers, professional musicians, NFL football players (more on this in (2) below), NFL referees, stadium attendants, broadcasters of NFL events, etc. etc. etc.

2) You have to love the delicious irony of someone that starts a point with a football reference, and then later suggests that we hold an election on a day where the most popular sporting league holds the overwhelming majority of its games. Should the NFL not play on election Sunday in Post's dreamworld?

3) In many polling districts, including mine, the polling location is a church. Churches tend to have large reception areas that make it easy for multiple voting booths and lots of parking for its usual Sunday worshipers. Many of these churches may not be receptive of holding elections and interrupting usual church services.

4) For people with kids, it may be easier to vote on a regular routine day (i.e., the sitter/daycare is available as usual). If its on a Sunday, the routine is broken. I would have to stay at home while my wife votes, and vice versa, whereas on a workday we can both take a lunch break and vote at the same time.

In short, its not inexplicable why we don't have elections on Sunday.
11.4.2008 11:10am
Thales (mail) (www):
"Voter registration is a disaster. Ballots are overly complex (too many offices, too many inititives) to vote quickly. Both have to be the first order of business in January.

This probably means a central registry of voters. So what."

Somehow Canada makes do with paper and pen ballots and the results are known promptly. How about for us: Election day a national holiday or on a weekend, uniform national voting standards, non hackable mechanical machines with a traceable evidentiary trail for recounts, same day registration in all locations (it works for Wisconsin), all paid for by the federal government. Someone has to pay for it, and the more you invest up front to ensure orderly functioning elections, the less you pay out in election litigation and a disgusted electorate--I think there are probably economies of scale and scope to be achieved with uniform standards. Congressional power to effect this is clearly present in the Constitution, all that is missing is political will.
11.4.2008 11:12am
Randy R. (mail):
Reader: "Is it really hard to believe that making people stand in line for 3 hours prevents many people from voting? "

It does if you are the coveted soccer mom who has a full time job, then has to pick up the kids from practice, then has to get dinner on the table. When is SHE supposed to vote? (Or he, if it's a gay couple?)

I have a friend who immigrated from Russia, and we asked if she was going to vote. She said she had no idea that you had to register to vote! In Russia, election day is a holiday, and there is no registration at all. You just show your passport or some other valid ID and you waltz right in and vote. She had no idea that the world's greatest democracy would have all this business like registration.

I served her some strong tea to calm her nerves, and she assured me next time she'll know better.
11.4.2008 11:17am
U.Va. Grad:
The law in Minnesota requires that employers allow their employees to be absent the morning of election day without penalty, with pay. While some might think this policy would encourage abuse, in my professional life the only effect I've seen is that some folks might turn up a little late for work. This is one of the factors, along with election day registration, that contributes to the near 80% turnout in the state.

I just voted this morning in Minneapolis. Moved here two months ago or so to start my career.

I had to wait over an hour and a half to cast my ballot. (In line at 6:45, out at 8:20.) If it had been 20 degrees out instead of 50, I wouldn't have bothered. Minnesota really needs to get in on the no-excuse-necessary absentee voting I got used to in Ohio.
11.4.2008 11:17am
Scott Wood (mail):
I agree with complaints about long lines, with one caveat: I've almost never had to wait in one. With one exception, my experience has been that I walk right up and, at most, wait for one person. Granted, all of those experiences were in one specific NJ polling place, and my one relatively lengthly wait was in a NY district. Now I live in California, and we'll see. I'm trying to time it to minimize the possibility of a wait.

But this leads to a question: just how long are typical polling waits, anyway? It wasn't until rather recently that it even occurred to me that not walking right up and voting within a couple of minutes might not be the norm.
11.4.2008 11:24am
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Oh, lets not be a sour puss David.

I like that voting isn't too easy. The effort might weed out people who don't know anything and shouldn't be m aking decisions about me. Plus, standing in line with my neighbors on a ceremonial day is pretty nice. I took the kids and had a good time.
11.4.2008 11:32am
PC:
Wife waited 2 hours early this morning, I just got back and my wait was 20 minutes. Apparently the polling place was swamped by all of the people voting before going to work.
11.4.2008 11:57am
A.S.:
It's no wonder that David Post was so opposed to Sarah Palin, he's got to be one of the most ignorant people I've read.

Does David Post not realize that many polling stations are CHURCHES, which have other functions on a Sunday?

Only someone who bitterly complains about Sarah Palin's supposed ignorance could make himself look like such a fool by proving his own ignorance.
11.4.2008 12:11pm
John William Gibson (mail) (www):
I'll only comment on "Early Voting." I live in Oregon, the only state that uses "Vote-by-Mail" which it has perfected. The amount of voter fraud here is negligable to nil. The other 49 might take a look at how we do it, because it works so well and we have above average turn out for both general and special elections.
11.4.2008 12:18pm
first principles:
To make voting easier, and voters more informed, we should go back to first principles. Only white, male property owners should be allowed to vote. Voting (and the country) has gone down hill ever since this principle was changed. The government has left its own first principles of protecting private property and individual rights and now interferes in every facet of our lives.
11.4.2008 12:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I'm sick of all this whining about how inconvenient it is to have to go in person to a polling place, and possibly to stand in line for almost as long as you stand in line for the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride at Disneyland."

Of course it's easy to vote in person -- if you are in good health, all your arms and legs are in good functioning order, your car starts up reliably, your child doesn't wake up sick this morning, you don't have phobias about enclosed spaces or large crowds, and you happen to be in town on that day.

People are a bunch of whiners.
11.4.2008 1:15pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
I'm sick of all this whining about how inconvenient it is to have to go in person to a polling place, and possibly to stand in line for almost as long as you stand in line for the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride at Disneyland.


Not everyone stands in line for the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride at Disneyland, nor is it a constitutionally-guaranteed right.
11.4.2008 1:58pm
Sagar:
If the "few" dead people were voting for Palin, may be David Post would care a bit more about them!

There are no millions and millions of people who are not voting because it is a Tuesday. And your preference for a mag swipe (besides being opposed by the lefties) will help how? Should you be able to go in to the polling place any time you want, or only during certain period of the day as it is now? Should anyone have to verify you really are an eligible voter in that district? If these checks are put in place, how is that different from what is happening now with touch-screen electronic voting machines?

hope there is no "meta-communication" in my comment:)
11.4.2008 2:02pm
Gary Imhoff (mail) (www):
A voting update: I just returned from voting in mid-city District of Columbia. Left for voting place: 1:45 p.m. Arrived at voting place: 1:50 p.m. Time voting: 5 minutes, most of which was spent maneuvering around groups of teenagers blocking the halls in the youth center where the precinct is located. Left voting place: 1:55 p.m. Arrived back home, 2:00 p.m.

Oh, the indignities, the inequities, the inconveniences. Can't this process be improved? Perhaps we can just skip voting and rely on the polls instead.
11.4.2008 2:15pm
Fedya (www):
Thales wrote:

Somehow Canada makes do with paper and pen ballots and the results are known promptly.


Except that the federal elections aren't at the same time as the provincial elections. (And, if I'm not mistaken, local elections are at a different time altogether.) As I pointed out above, it's easier to use simple paper ballots when you've only got one race going on.
11.4.2008 3:41pm