Several battleground states not prepared for voter turnout

(October 9, 2008, Washington DC)-- According to research conducted by Advancement Project, a national leading voter protection organization, several battleground states are not prepared to meet the challenge of administering the general election on November 4th, where turnout will be unprecedented. To assess, and help ensure, the nation's readiness for the November general election, Advancement Project obtained public records and other public information on the allocation, at the precinct level, of voting machines (or, in the case of jurisdictions that use optical scan machines, voting privacy booths) and poll workers in the following states: Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Advancement Project's research on the 28 counties and cities has resulted in three key findings:

  1. In many jurisdictions, the number of voting machines, privacy booths, and poll workers will likely be insufficient to accommodate all those who may turn out to vote on November 4, 2008. This will likely result in extremely long lines at the polls and "lost" voters unless these problems are addressed beforehand.
  2. Machines, privacy booths, and poll workers have been mis-allocated in many jurisdictions, which will likely result in some precincts within a jurisdiction having long lines due to insufficient resources while neighboring precincts have an efficient Election Day because they have been provided ample numbers of machines, privacy booths, and poll workers.
  3. In some jurisdictions, the allocation of polling place resources is likely to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. In other words, there will be fewer voting machines or poll workers per voter in high minority precincts than in low minority precincts.

"People are excited about voting in this election, registration and turn out will be up, which is great for our democracy," said Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director, Advancement Project. "However, many election officials are under-resourced or have misallocated their resources. If they do not prepare adequately for the potential turnout, what could be the greatest collective exercise in democratic participation in our nation's history be stained by government failure."

Advancement Project applied machine and poll worker allocations to three potential turnout estimates for each county or city (ranging from most conservative to least conservative):[1]

  • Scenario One - 5% more "new voters" and "infrequent voters" turn out.
  • Scenario Two - 10% more "new voters" and "infrequent voters" turn out.
  • Scenario Three - Among Whites, 10% more "infrequent voters" and 15% more "new voters" turn out. For minorities, 15% more "infrequent voters" and 25% more "new voters" turn out.

Below are a few highlights of Advancement Project's research:

Allocation of Voting Machines

Most of the Virginia cities --Alexandria, Fairfax County, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach--Advancement Project examined, are among the worst resourced and ill-prepared of all jurisdictions we examined. For example:

Each jurisdiction has some precincts that appear unlikely to be able to accommodate potential voters within the standard 13-hour Election Day.
In some jurisdictions, the majority of precincts face the prospect of extremely long lines unless more resource