Far fewer voting problems were reported in Grand Rapids and the country as a whole compared with 2004, but there are still several opportunities to reform the voting process according to the nonpartisan group Election Reform.
Unlike the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, there was relatively little discussion of voting problems this year. While scattered problems were reported across the country–and in Michigan–the problems were largely under reported in light of Obama’s substantial victory.
In Grand Rapids, there were several reported problems. Most of the problems had to do with excessive lines at Alexander Elementary School. At the school, voters waited as much as two hours to vote in Precinct 17 of Grand Rapids’ Ward 3. The City of Grand Rapids blamed the delays on the high number of voters in the precinct and record turnout. However, given that similar problems occurred in the 2004 election, these problems should have been prevented. Beyond these problems, The Grand Rapids Press also reported that there were some problems with Republican challengers.
Across Michigan, problems were reported with long lines–especially in Detroit. In Detroit, voters reported waiting as long as three hours to vote. In addition, there were reports of faulty voting machines. The nonpartisan group Election Protection received reported receiving calls about 569 problems in Michigan with the majority being classified as “polling place problems.” This broad category included everything from voters being told they couldn’t vote at a polling place to polling places running out of ballots.
However, despite the absence of major problems this election, Election Protection says that there are still a number of reforms () that would help enhance voting rights. These include:
IMPROVE VOTER REGISTRATION PROCESS
The most prevalent and alarming challenge to our electoral process today came in the form of voter registration problems. Voters across the country arrived at the polls to find that their registrations had never been processed, that their names had been purged from voter lists, or that they had missed the registration deadlines altogether. Our first priority for improving this flawed system should be to make the registration process fair, accurate and efficient.
COMBATTING DECEPTIVE PRACTICES
Voters in nearly a dozen states today received misinformation about polling locations, times and rules. It’s easier than ever to disseminate deceptive information quickly – and with new mediums – and our election system needs to adapt accordingly to combat these practices and minimize the effects of partisan tricks.
UPGRADE THE ADMINISTRATION PROCESS
Today in Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and numerous other states, eligible voters were forced to cast provisional ballots because of ballots shortages, and were hampered by poorly trained poll workers, and broken voting machines. These problems could have been avoided if the administration of our electoral process provided officials and poll locations with the resources needed to handle the weight of full participation.
EXPANDING THE VOTE
We saw fewer problems in states with early voting. Early voting takes pressure off the system by easing the crush on Election Day, and by providing a margin for error when testing new systems of election administration. Today’s voters should not be constrained to a single day in which to cast a ballot.
On its website, Election Protection features a detailed report that advocates particular reforms that would address these areas.
Here in Michigan, the Michigan Election Reform Alliance is advocating many similar reforms.