Thursday, January 13, 2005

It's about time!

It's great to see some lawmakers working on the problem of long lines at voting places. Some of my people in Detroit, when I worked Election Protection, were standing in line for 2 hours in the morning to vote. This is an especially significant issue for Democrats, whose urban voters often face the longest lines.

5 comments:

Rousseau said...

Actually, voting delays and who they hurt is far from well known. In previous years they'd been thought to effect Republicans, as rural areas would have rarer polling locations and the least technologically up to date equipment.

Basically, federalism wins here. Voting procedures are controlled on such a local level generally, that you don't risk a discrepancy between the electoral goals of the voters and of those running the voting very often. (Sure, it happens some, and that's why you and I go work voter protection. But much less than it could be.)

I mean you have something, with equipment, location, and crew set up at most twice a year, and only handling any traffic to speak of once every 4 years. Surprisingly, it won't be very efficient. In fact, you you start doing any cost benefit analysis of how much marginal money we're going to spend per voter saved from inconvenience or getting screwed, you find we spend way more money than we statistically should.

Uh, not that voting delays and other problems shouldn't be seriously looked at. But no, it's not another "helps Democrat issue" (and also usually you really do have the government involved doing whatever they can to help the process along).

Mary said...

You have people?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Yeah, the local level is the primary one to address this on. I'd be willing to contribute to Town Clerk / Register of Deeds campaigns if that's the way to get smaller lines. But if federal grants of some kind become available, cool.

I don't see the inefficiency point. Really what I wanted for my Detroit polling place was several more stands, an extra room in the school set aside for voting, and a couple more poll workers. I can't imagine total cost here breaking $1000 per precinct per election.

I really felt good about my time in Detroit and I bonded a little with the local community activists. Hence 'my people.'

Rousseau said...

It's not an issue of one more stand at that place. We really don't know where the problems will necessarily be (and don't just say urban, there are thousands of urban polling precincts). There's enough variation that it'd be a few dozen places where you'd add equipment to cover an expected 1 of those places.

Dennis said...

Wow. Thousands of urban polling places, $1000 each. That's millions of dollars! We'll never be able to afford *that*.

That said, this isn't really a hard problem to solve: each polling place can compute the total line time spent by each voter (or an approximation thereof) and thus the average wait time. If it's much over some fixed threshold, say 15-30 minutes, that polling place automatically gets $k per voter for new voting machines/infrastructure improvement. Yes, there are details that need working out and it won't help until the next presidential election, but this is not by any means a hard problem to fix.