Elections in the News

Coping with high turnout

Finally, it’s Election Day!

High turnout is expected in states like Alabama, Arizona, California –in particular in Los Angeles, Napa and Solano, Monterrey and Ventura counties, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Lousiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas.

The highest expected turnout is in Connecticut, where the Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz “expects as many as 90 percent of state voters will cast ballots Tuesday.” Also, close to 80% turnout is expected by election officials in Arizona, some California counties —Los Angeles, Monterrey, Napa and Solano, and Ventura, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and St. Louis Missouri. Several other regions expect turnout to be close to 75%.

As noted by The New York Times, “high turnout may add to problems at polling places.” This has alerted election watchdogs, and large numbers of official, partisan and independent election watchers have been deployed around the country –for instance, in New Mexico.

In Connecticut, Bysiewicz feels confident about being able to cope with the torrent because “the state is using optical scan voting machines instead of the old lever machines.”

Counties like St. Louis, Missouri, have prepared by recruiting and training poll workers, including “high school and college-age techno-savvy troubleshooters.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that “the board was flooded with applications from people wanting to work the polls” and they have been turning them away because they have enough pollworkers. Other regions which have been recruiting student as polling place administrators are Washtenaw County, Fresno County, and Chicago.

In New Hampshire election officials have prepared for record turnout “by adding voting machines, extending polling hours and printing extra ballots.” Similarly, in Alabama “election officials have added extra poll workers and printed more ballots to try to meet the demand for a history-making election”. In Dallas County, Texas, “officials have prepared for massive turnout. They used a federal grant to buy an additional 1,000 voting booths and added extra training classes for poll workers. They expect to have 4,000 workers deployed to the county’s 500 polling sites.”

In Pennsylvania, two recent court decisions –provision of emergency paper ballots and allowing voters to wear partisan attire, have forced counties to train workers throughout the weekend. According to AP, “if more emergency paper ballots are cast Tuesday, vote counting will take longer and poll workers will have to keep track of all those ballots and make sure none get lost.” In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, “the county has hired about 160 extra poll workers, bringing the total countywide to more than 6,600 to staff 1,321 polling places. In addition to normal training for new poll workers, the bureau has provided extra training in how to handle provisional or emergency paper ballots.”

In those states requiring voters to present a photo ID —Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota, newspapers have been active in reminding voters about the requirement, or otherwise they may face problems such as having to cast provisional ballots.

Some election officials, like Dean Logan from Los Angeles County, recommend voters to avoid high voting hours like early morning and late afternoon.

Inés and Janell