4/17/16, "Why Americans Can't Vote," NY Times Editorial Board
"The state of the nation’s underfunded, patchwork election system and obsolete balloting machinery may not arouse voters the way candidates can with charges of rigged elections. But voters in Arizona who lined up for the state’s presidential primaries last month learned just how difficult and unfair voting can be even without criminal malfeasance....
Come Tuesday in New York, untold numbers of primary voters interested in crossing party lines will discover that it’s too late, that they should have switched parties by last Oct. 9, a little publicized deadline under “closed primary” voting procedures that serve to guard the major parties’ power.
This is but one of many confusions, Common Cause New York, a government watchdog group, warns. Politicians in Albany scheduled four separate balloting days this year for state and federal offices. New York lags behind more electorally advanced states in its refusal to allow voters the convenience of same-day registration, early voting and easier absentee balloting. The Republican ballot names the candidates while the confusing Democratic ballot asks voters to choose a candidate as well as delegates pledged to either of the two candidates.
Beyond New York, newly restrictive election laws enacted in 17 states have imposed tighter procedures for identification, registration and early voting. In Wisconsin this month, primary voters were arbitrarily rejected or forced to endure a maze of three separate waiting lines for registration, identification and balloting. Similar restrictions elsewhere will be facing their first test in November.
Aside from bad laws, frayed infrastructure and limited funding also afflict the voting process. Unconscionably long lines in the 2012 election led to an investigation by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, whose report contained recommendations on cutting a voter’s wait to no more than 30 minutes. That remains a distant ideal in a crazy-quilt voting system variously managed and mismanaged by the 50 states and some 8,000 local jurisdictions.
Shortchanging election budgets is a big part of the problem. The presidential commission warned of an “impending crisis” as voting machines bought after the hanging-chad debacle of 2000 become obsolete and break down.
There are 43 states using computerized machines 10 to 15 years old that are increasingly unreliable and insecure, according to a study by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. With limited money to replace outdated machines, poorer counties and urban centers, often with more minority voters, will suffer longer delays and critical breakdowns.
Solutions to obvious voting obstacles aren’t hard to grasp: online registration, early voting, more and better trained poll workers, and modern technology like paper ballots backed by scanners, set to national standards.
The Brennan Center says it might cost upward of $1 billion in the next few years to replace aging machines. This seems a bargain compared with the $1 billion-plus that the presidential candidates have already raised. Voters will be judging the state of democracy in November when they line up, for better or worse."
"A version of this editorial appears in print on April 17, 2016, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Americans Can’t Vote."