In our three pilot states of Wisconsin, Florida, and Pennsylvania, we're identifying — and solving — local election administration problems that stand between voters and the ballot. The problems local officials and voters face are unique to the situation on the ground, and the solutions need to be, too.
Voting before Election Day: In 2016, a court decision expanded opportunities to vote at a polling place before Election Day, a process known as in-person absentee voting. But local officials didn't offer equal opportunities to vote early throughout the state. That made access to the ballot harder for some Wisconsin voters.
Electronic Poll Books: In June 2017, the Wisconsin Elections Commission voted to develop electronic poll book (e-poll book) software, an innovation that supports poll workers and can speed up the process of voting. But just as with any new technology, it's critical that it be secure and easy to use. In other states, problems with e-poll books have caused long lines to vote.
- Advocate for additional opportunities to vote before Election Day. Look at such factors as population centers and public transit routes to determine whether every voter in an area has equal access to in-person absentee voting locations.
- Ensure that e-poll books are effectively and securely implemented by working with local officials planning to adopt the software in 2018. Advocate with the Wisconsin Elections Commission for effective design, training and support for the new software.
Unregistered voters: Millions of eligible Floridians aren't registered to vote, and Florida's rules for voter registration drives are some of the strictest in the country. In October 2017, the state launched online voter registration, which has the potential to increase voter participation, save taxpayer dollars, and make the voter rolls more accurate. As with any new technology, it's critical to ensure that the state is taking steps to protect voter data and privacy; to make the website accessible to voters with disabilities; to support traffic to the site by large numbers of eligible voters; and to inform Floridians about the new system, including with multi-lingual voter education materials.
Inaccessible polling places, limited early vote days and hours: In 2016, counties in South Florida placed polling locations inside gated communities that were closed to non-residents. Other counties didn't offer the full days and hours of early vote that Florida law allows for, making it harder for voters with childcare or work responsibilities to make it to the polls.
Polling place resources cause long lines: In 2012, election officials' decisions about how many voting machines, ballot printers and other resources to send to polling places caused 6-hour lines in Miami. 200,000 Floridians walked away from their polling places without casting a ballot. No one should stand in line for 6 hours to vote because there aren't enough voting machines.
- Advocate for secure and effective implementation of online voter registration, which launched October 2017.
- Identify counties where polling place resource shortages have disenfranchised voters. Advocate for enough voting machines, poll workers and other resources to ensure that every voter -- no matter where he or she lives -- can cast a ballot without waiting in a long line.
Long lines: 1 in 5 respondents to a poll after the 2016 election reported waiting in line to vote for 30+ minutes in Philadelphia. 7% reported waiting in line for 1 hour or more.*
30-year-old voting technology: Voting machines in Philadelphia county were designed in 1984. A 2015 request by City Commissioners to purchase new machines was denied. On Election Day 2016, Philadelphia voters experienced widespread voting machine breakdowns.
Slow voter registration process: In the 2012 election, 12,294 Philadelphia voters encountered a problem with their registration that required they cast a provisional ballot -- a ballot that may not get counted. In 2016, as many as 1 in 10 Philadelphia voters who had submitted registration applications could not be found on the voter rolls. These voters did everything right, but still faced obstacles to voting.*
*For more information, visit https://seventy.org/
- Work with state and local election officials to streamline polling place operations, provide additional resources to vote, and give local election officials the flexibility to make decisions based on their community's needs -- so that no voter has to wait in a long line to cast a ballot.
- Analyze data about voting machine breakdowns from past elections, to better understand the impact equipment malfunctions have on voters.
- Advocate for additional resources to process voter registration applications, so that when Pennsylvanians register to vote, they know that they'll cast a ballot that counts.