Ballot Access

IX – Ballot access, including mail-in and absentee ballots.

No impediments, such as inaccessible or distant polling places, should be placed to block legitimate votes. When there are long lines for voting all day long it is an indication of an impediment or not enough polling places. The number of polling places per precinct or district should be roughly equivalent between equally populated legislative districts in the same state. Since long lines continue to be a problem at some polling places, technological innovations have made solutions reasonable. Changes like allowing voters to vote at vote centers within their state, instead of just the precinct location closest to their address, create a truly viable solution to limited voter access. States like California, Utah, and Maryland have all used voting centers effectively in recent years, albeit only on a county by county basis. California and Utah allow the counties to decide whether to have traditional neighborhood-based precincts or to have vote-centers that any one from that county may vote at. Maryland used county wide voting centers in 2020 to compensate for having too few poll workers and mandated that every county have voting centers instead of precinct based polling places. We propose that with modern technology, and backup power generators at every voting center, that all states could allow registered voters to cast their ballots at any voting center in the state where they reside. This would allow individuals with longer workdays and non traditional work schedules and commuters who work in different counties, than the ones in which they reside, to cast their votes at voting centers nearer to their places of business.

Laws need to ensure that all legal votes are counted. Nonpartisan electoral boards should determine the legality of any questioned ballots to prevent partisan interference and the appearance of impropriety. Illegal voting, while extremely rare and typically small scale, should be prevented with legal provisions to guide election boards in legality. Any voter registration laws or voting restrictions aimed to make it harder for any group of eligible voters to have voter access should be eliminated and those practices prohibited by law to protect the Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. Passed by the House and now being considered by the Senate, the John J Lewis Voting Rights would restore the provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which were ruled invalid by the Supreme Court.

Georgia, Florida, and Texas have recently passed election laws for which they have been widely criticized. It has been said that these rules make it harder for certain groups of people to vote. Upon analysis, one of the rules states that people in a line waiting to vote cannot be given water or food while they wait in line. Why is there a long line? Are the voters in that precinct being given as many places to vote as other precincts in that county? What caused this rule to be put in place? Because of the length of the line, were waiting voters outside of the normal boundaries prohibiting electioneering? If they were being given water etc. by people attempting to influence their vote that could be a reason for the rule. The best answer would be to remove the causes of the long lines. The rule doesn’t prohibit water etc. from being provided as long as it is by election office workers. The rule requires a signature on an oath and one of four acceptable ID items, for example a Driver's License number, on mail in ballots the same that in person voters are required to provide an ID and a signature. They are not required to have a witness or a notary sign their ballot as some states require. Problems, real or perceived, from the Covid-19 election of 2020 have been the basis for many of these rules.

There are a number of ways that voting becomes more difficult. The following account gives one person’s or family’s circumstances:

Making ballot access easier increases voter participation. I know it was a distinct improvement for me. I didn’t have to deal with the steps at my polling place which is currently located in a historic building with numerous stairs and no elevator. A few years we voted at a school with little or no parking and regularly had to walk 3-4 blocks from the nearest parking space. Those are huge impediments to voting for the elderly, disabled people, and those who have to bring small children to the polls with them. During the pandemic, I could fill my ballot out as I researched the candidates rather than writing up and carrying my usual crib sheets to my polling place. My husband, for instance, typically cannot vote in person if the election falls on a day he works. He leaves for work by 5 am and gets home at 7:30 pm at the earliest because Tuesday’s are one of the busiest days they have in the lab. He works too far from our polling place, in a neighboring county, to run over on lunch or just slip out when things slow down for a few minutes. So many medical professionals work similarly long 12+ hour shifts and commuting isn’t unusual for hospital professionals in our area. One friend lived a few blocks from us but worked in a hospital two counties away with an hour commute. The people who are typically facing this problem are often in positions that we heavily rely on for vital services, especially individuals that we started calling essential workers in 2020. (See notes 1 and 2 for more information from a local personal perspective.) Notes

Category: National and State