A few quick thoughts literally from 30,000 feet this morning … who doesn’t love inflight wifi?
NPR’s Pam Fessler (who doesn’t get near enough credit for her coverage of election administration issues, by the way) has a piece on today’s Morning Edition about the prospect of slower lines at the polls in 2012.
She talks, as she always does, to a host of people in the field and the consensus among election officials, observers and academics alike is that budget cuts to all aspects of elections threaten to erode the level of service available to voters on and before Election Day.
Of course, it isn’t just budget cuts that will contribute to this phenomenon; the dramatically increased turnout of a presidential election year will test polling places across the nation. In 2008, the team at electionline.org titled our pre-election report “What If We Held and Election and Everyone Came?” I would expect those challenges to be repeated – and amplified – in 2012.
I’m not sure, however, that I buy the view expressed by a few individuals in Pam’s piece that budget cuts will almost certainly result in a degradation of service to voters. While 2012 will not be business as usual at the polls, that was trend was already underway, with developments in alternatives to the traditional polling place like early voting, vote centers and vote by mail. Moreover, for voters who still go to Election Day polling places, there is likely to be more and more information available about the process – including, in some jurisdictions, projected wait times – that will enable them to plan accordingly. In addition, as I’ve already noted, it is in campaigns’ interest to make sure that voters get a chance to cast a ballot – and their GOTV strategies will likely adapt as well if they want to win.
In short, anyone who’s paying attention already knows that the election system in 2012 will face a combination of increased demand and decreasing budgets.Those factors, however, won’t result in long or slow lines at the polls next year unless the election community fails to improvise, adapt and overcome on behalf of voters.