Editorial: No excuse for the way we vote in New York

Long lines at the polls, discouraged and inconvenienced voters are avoidable with simple practices that other states already employ
New York City residents were among many New Yorkers who waited in long lines to vote Tuesday.
New York City residents were among many New Yorkers who waited in long lines to vote Tuesday.

 If you needed a reason why New York has to reform its antiquated process for voting, you needed to look no further than what was trending on Twitter on Tuesday.

Click on the hashtag #nycvotes and you’d see photos of long lines in the rain and crowded gymnasiums and fire stations.

Some voters took the long waits in stride, happy to see people performing their civic duty and noting the enthusiasm for the midterm elections.

“Took around two hours this morning at PS 22 but I was able to vote. SO WORTH IT!,” wrote one young voter.

Others complained strongly about having to wait 90 minutes or more to vote due to a limited number of voting stations for the number of voters, scanning machine breakdowns due to overuse, and an unusually lengthy four-page ballot.

“All but 1 scanner at my polling place broken for most of the hr & 15 min I was there, 40 min just waiting to slide in my already completed ballot,” one voter tweeted. “I don’t know about the rest of #nycvotes, but I could use a drink.”

Upstate, the lines in many places were longer than people expected on a rainy Tuesday in a non-presidential year. While there wasn’t as much online complaining, some voters did wait an hour or more, which is longer than many people’s lunch hours.

It’s true that voting lines in New York City and other population centers are an unfortunate consequence of having a lot of people crammed into a small area trying to do the same thing within the same short time frame. And we’ve heard New York City’s election system isn’t exactly known for its military precision.

But long lines, regardless of the reason, discourage people from voting, especially if the same problems occur year to year. Just look at New York’s voter turnout, among the lowest in the nation. 

In effect, our backwards system of voting is a form of voter suppression. 

If you were one of those people standing in the rain outside a Brooklyn polling place for two hours on Tuesday — missing an unanticipated amount of time from work or being late to pick up your kid — how likely are you to put yourself through that again next year?

New York state prides itself on being progressive. But we’ve got the most backwards, antiquated voting system in the country.

Other than the electronic scanning machines replacing the reliable old lever voting machines, New York still does elections the same way it’s been doing them for decades: People show up on one day, stand in line and vote. 

Only people who are out of town on Election Day get to vote without being exposed to the lines, and only if they have a good excuse.

Yet solutions abound.

More than 22 states, for instance, have some form of mail-in voting, including Washington state, Oregon and Colorado, which do it exclusively. No one stands in line in those states if they don’t want to.

In Oregon, registered voters receive a ballot in the mail a couple of weeks before the election, which they can either mail back, drop in a drop-in box or go to a polling place and fill it out in person. Other states give counties the option or do a hybrid system of mail-in, absentee and in-person voting. New Yorkers don’t have any such option.

Early voting, available in 37 other states, is another way to ease the burden of voting, not only by creating more convenient times for people to vote, but by spreading out the crowds so that the lines aren’t as long on one particular day. Again, not an option in New York.

We’re not talking about doing internet voting, which has the potential for hacking. We’re talking about changing a few basic rules and giving people a few more opportunities to vote conveniently without having to take too much time from work, juggling the kids’ schedules or waiting in long lines in cold rain just to exercise a fundamental right.

Other states have figured it out. Why not New York?

There are plenty of ways New York could make it easier and more convenient to vote, and it might actually encourage more citizens to participate. 

We need mail-in voting, no-excuse absentee voting and/or early voting.

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for this backwards voting system.

This election should be the end of the line.


Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Leave a Reply