Jonathan Adkins, for example, encountered a two-hour wait when he tried to vote at 10 a.m. at St. George's Episcopal Church in the Virginia Square neighborhood. He returned at 11:30 -- same problem. So Adkins, who has the flu, went home and said he wouldn't be able to vote.This is both good news and bad news for November. The good news is that if interest in the primary is this high, we can and should anticipate overwhelming turnout for the General Election. In a country that laments declining turnout in elections, our officials should be thrilled at the opportunity to serve a larger percentage of the electorate than ever before.
He said the line moved slowly because there was only one table of poll workers checking voters in. In past elections, he said, there had been several tables.
"I was extremely frustrated to say the least,'' said Adkins, who called the county to complain. "It's very disheartening. I expect to wait awhile, but I don't expect chaos." - The Washington Post
The bad news is that our election infrastructure appears to be woefully unprepared for massive turnout.
Harrison said staffing is low because it's increasingly hard to find people willing to be poll workers, a job that pays $130 for the day. He said the county advertised extensively through local service clubs and on the Internet but was only able to recruit and train about 500 poll workers county-wide. "We could easily use another hundred without batting an eye, maybe even more than that." - The Washington PostUntil we make election day a national holiday, there will always be a shortage of election workers and an abundance of impatient voters. As the man standing in front of me in line said this morning, "some of us have lives, you know!"
Let us put aside for the moment the issue of how voting and democracy is at the root of the ability to "have a life," and being willing to take approximately 0.01% of your year every four years to participate in choosing our leader - the de facto most powerful person on earth, a remarkable achievement in the history of civil society - would appear to be an incredibly small price to pay for the privilege of freedom and participatory government. The point made by the disgruntled voters today needs to be addressed, because regardless of how we should feel about voting, the way voters actually feel about voting is what drives turnout.
What are we going to do about long lines and voter frustration in November?
The county [Arlington] will "rethink" its approach for the November elections, Harrison added. "I don't know where we can get more people, but we are constantly after them," he said. "We'll be jumping up and down trying to get people who can work the polls." - The Washington PostThe most fundamental duty of a government in a representative democracy is to hold the elections that make it a representative democracy. That means enough workers and voting machines to make voting easy and available. That means investment in an election infrastructure that makes it obvious to all voters that our elections are the best-run, most transparent in the world. That means doing a lot more than has been done so far.
Perhaps the public financing checkbox on our taxes should be modified, so when we designate $3 to public financing of Presidential elections, the unused balance (since candidates rarely take public financing any more) is allocated to election infrastructure upgrades proportional to the amount of taxpayers in a state that check the box. Another proposal is for Veterans' Day and Election Day to be merged and made a universal national holiday so everyone can vote on the day we are reminded why voting is important.
Until the Federal government does more, we in Virginia need to do more to ensure that voting is not a burden but a blessing for the citizens of the Commonwealth. That means that counties like Loudoun will need to prepare for heavy turnout by increasing the number of poll workers, splitting the voter roll books into two (or three) sections at each polling place to allow faster processing of voters. It means the Assembly should invest money in purchasing more voting machines for the precincts which have the highest number of voters across the state.
And it means that this year, people like you and I should consider taking the day off on November 4th and volunteering to be a poll worker. We all need to do our part.