By Julia Kessel
Problem: Presidential Elections are not easily accessible or available to all eligible voters of the United States.
Currently, our election process is not easily accessible to all citizens of the United States. Voting is a right, not a privilege and US policy needs to properly reflect that. My proposal is to make voting more accessible to citizens across the country. Some of the biggest issues for voters on election day is that they do not have adequate time to go to the polls due to work, long lines at the polls, distance from the polling locations and voter ID requirements. To diminish these problems, the US should declare voting day a national holiday, create more polling locations and alter the identification requirements for voters. This would allow voters who cannot easily vote to be able to make it to the polls and exercise their right to vote.
Current United States Voting and Election Practices:
In the current voting system, the vote for the Presidential or Midterm Elections take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Tuesday is in the middle of the work week making it difficult for working voters to make it to the polls due to the location, availability and time required. Declaring Election Day a national holiday would increase voter turnout, significantly granting working voters access to the polls.
For many, the closest polling location to them can be very inconvenient and difficult to reach on Election Day. While it may be marginally closer in one direction, it may be a large distance from their place of work. A citizen’s polling location is based on their residential address (Joslyn 2020). By voting at a polling location that is close to their job and isn’t the location they are registered at, that citizen’s provisional ballot would not be counted toward the election totals.
In some polling locations, the lines to vote are extremely long and since many people are forced to go vote before work or during a break, these long lines may deter citizens from voting. When a polling location has long wait times, it requires the voter to dedicate an immense amount of time to actually go and vote. In 2018, the lines were anywhere from five minutes long to over 45 minutes.
The average wait time to vote in the majority of states increased significantly (Weil 2018), compared to the midterm elections in 2014. This increase in time to wait to vote often leads to many people being unable to vote due to the large amount of time commitment required to be able to vote at a polling location.
In order to be eligible to vote in the State of Wisconsin, one must be able to show a variety of documents to prove their residency within the specific voting district and the state. These documents need to be recent and updated with a correct name and accurate address for proof of residency (Ballotpedia). In many of the poorer areas of Wisconsin, there are people who may be staying with other people which would mean that they typically do not have a bill or official mail addressed to them or possibly even a state issued ID with the correct address. So, on voting day, those without the required voting documents would be unable to vote in the election because they lack the documents required by the state. This policy indirectly leads to voter suppression of the lower class.
- Make Election Day a national holiday
Making Election Day a national holiday would allow for many more people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. A national holiday would allow most people to get the day off and then they would be able to easily make it to the polls without stress or worry about the time required. For companies and businesses that cannot close for a day, they must give employees half days so that they are able to go vote. That compromise would keep the business running and let the employees vote without hassle. This change would increase voter turnout and make voting more accessible. As a way to regulate this change, employees would work a half day instead of a full shift. This would allow business to continue running and for employees to not lose a full day of pay. The federal government would need to apply this change to all states as well to ensure that all citizens are able to vote.
- Allow citizens to pick their polling location based on convenience and accessibility for their needs
When voting, the assigned polling location is based on a person’s home address (USA.gov). This system does not take into account work or school hours and locations. If a citizen is registering early to vote, then that voter should be allowed to select their polling location based on what is most accessible to them, while staying within their voting district to ensure that they vote in the same elections that they would have in their assigned location. If someone has a long commute to work, this change would give them the opportunity to vote without needing to interfere with work. But, their polling location would have to be in the state that they reside in, even if they work in another state. This would also allow more people to have the option to vote somewhere near their job or near their school, therefore, making voting more accessible for those people.
- Create more polling locations to shorten the necessary amount of time to vote
On average, US citizens face up to a 45 minute wait when voting (Weil 2018). States could significantly shorten this time in two ways. The first way would be to have more spots to vote at each polling location. This would increase the flow of voters in and out of the polling location by allowing more voters to vote at a time. Another way to shorten the amount of time required to vote would be to create more polling locations. By opening up more stations, polling locations would not be expected to receive as many voters and the traffic at each location would be decreased significantly. A realistic way to accomplish this goal would be to find willing volunteers within different communities to help run each station. That way, more stations could be run and people in the local community could get involved in the political process.
- Change the requirements to obtain a voter ID.
In accordance with state regulations, most states require an up to date government issued ID to be able to cast a vote in any election. Under the current system, it is difficult for many eligible voters to obtain a voter ID. The chart below shows the percentage of individuals with a confirmed ID, by race.
By comparing the percentages, minorities disproportionately lack a confirmed government issued ID. This disparity shows the need for a change in the voting identification system. A system that would be effective that many states have already put into place is to not require an up to date state ID and to accept other documents or a binding signature as a form of identification at the polls.
In conclusion, voting accessibility in the United States is a topic that needs to be discussed and increased. In the current system, there is a large section of voting eligible citizens who are left unable to vote because of time, accessibility and requirements. By making election day a national holiday, allowing citizens to select their polling location, creating more polling locations and changing the identification requirements to vote, my goal of making voting more accessible in the United States can be achieved. Ultimately, more accessible voting would lead to higher voter turnout in United States elections.
Cao, Rachel. “Poll Closing Times for Each State on Election Day 2016.” CNBC, CNBC, 8 Nov. 2016, www.cnbc.com/2016/11/08/poll-closing-times-for-each-state-on-election-day-2016.html.
Joslyn, Nick, et al. “Distance Traveled to Polling Locations: Are Travel Costs Imposed Equally on Party Members?” Taylor & Francis, 27 Jan. 2020, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1016/j.soscij.2018.12.006.
Lachman, Samantha. “Over 220,000 Ballots Didn’t Count In The Presidential Primaries.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 16 June 2016, www.huffpost.com/entry/provisional-ballots-not-counted_n_5761bb92e4b0df4d586f15fe.
Perez, Vanessa M. “AMERICANS WITH PHOTO ID: A Breakdown of Demographic Characteristics.” Project Vote, Feb. 2015, www.projectvote.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/AMERICANS-WITH-PHOTO-ID-Research-Memo-February-2015.pdf.
“State Poll Opening and Closing Times (2020).” Ballotpedia, 2020, ballotpedia.org/State_Poll_Opening_and_Closing_Times_(2020).
“Voting on Election Day.” USAGov, 2020, www.usa.gov/election-day.
“Voting in Wisconsin.” Ballotpedia, 2019, ballotpedia.org/Voting_in_Wisconsin#Voter_registration.
Weil, Matthew, et al. “The 2018 Voting Experience: Polling Place Lines.” Bipartisan Policy Center, 4 Nov. 2019, bipartisanpolicy.org/report/the-2018-voting-experience/.