by LaShawn Y. Warren
As we move past the 2012 elections and turn our eyes toward a host of pressing political, social, and economic issues, we must not lose sight of the continuing voting challenges unearthed by these elections. While significant progress has been made to expand access to the ballot box, we cannot ignore the persistent attempts to thwart participation through onerous photo ID requirements and other voting restrictions. Last week’s elections clearly demonstrated just how much more improvement is needed. Poorly trained poll workers, machine breakdowns, and inaccurate voter registration lists produced long lines that forced voters to wait hours simply to vote.
In Florida, voters were still waiting in line at two in the morning, as President Obama ended his victory speech. This was in addition to arbitrary rules for in-person absentee balloting, voting machines paper jams, and election officials in one Florida county informing voters they could vote through Wednesday! Fortunately, this was not a close election and a dramatic replay of 2000 was avoided, but the potential for electoral chaos remains systemic in the administration of our elections. As a key battleground state, the spotlight is frequently on voting issues in Florida, but these types of problems occur over and over again across the nation.
In a country that leads the world in the development of trend setting technology, it is difficult to imagine why our elections remain so antiquated. “We’re the greatest democracy in the world,” Tom Brokaw said, covering yet another election night. “But when voting time comes, we do everything but get a candle and a nightgown and walk in somewhere and make a mark with a sharp stick of some kind. It's crazy.” It is more than crazy; it is shameful. Voting is essential to our constitutional order and the health of our democracy. It is central to the essence of citizenship. We should pride ourselves in making it easy for citizens to participate in the political process.