New Orleans The headlines only tell part of the story when it comes to the emerging crisis in voter registration systems and the simple act of voting. I haven’t gone through the whole Pew Trust report on state problems according to their election performance index covering 2008 and 2010, but I’ve read enough to know that states are making a mockery of registration and voting, and given the voter suppression efforts of 2012, the next report is going to be a horror too terrible to comprehend.
The key issue has to be statistics on “discouraged” voters, people who when surveyed indicated that they gave up on voting because of the obstacles posed by registration or their efforts to obtain an absentee ballot when unable to reach the polls. States almost uniformly failed, or given current voter suppression these days reaching almost conspiratorial levels, perhaps this is what many of them now call success. This problem was significant in a majority of the states with the numbers running between 6% and 13.5% of those surveyed. In electoral terms that’s more than enough to swing most elections.
A related problem was the proliferation of “provisional” ballots. Provisional ballots are election-speak for “hey, dude, we’re not going to count your ballot unless hell freezes over” or the election is so close that it falls within the numbers that force the “issues” (to put it kindly) to be resolved so that the ballots are either counted or left in the trashcan. This is an area where poorly trained and informed election observers have wild levels of power to pitch the vote aside. The smallest problem with a registration or an ID can force a provisional ballot. In Louisiana for example if you forget your ID, you can vote, but the vote is a provisional ballot, so your vote is counted once every blue moon. Looking at some of the states where the numbers are significant increases concerns. Ohio, which has become notorious, tosses 3%. Kansas, which is leading voter suppression efforts, is right there with them. Arizona, not surprisingly, leads the dishonor roll by tossing 6.5% of the votes into the provisional pile.
When are we going to stop pretending that our notions of democracy are broken completely when our people don’t even have a good shot at voting and then having their votes counted?