Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, November 4
Early Voting Reform
Polling places have only been opened for a few hours in some states and haven't yet opened in others, but one area in which reform is needed is already quite clear: the process for in-person early voting. In states across the country that allow early voting, we've seen long lines, with voters sometimes waiting for several hours to vote. Among the states reported to have had such problems are California, Florida, and Ohio.

One of the big advantages of early voting is that it can take pressure off the polls on election day. And in-person early voting avoids the risk of fraud associated with mail voting, low though it may be. Instances of voter fraud are rare generally, but most documented instacnes are accomplished through mail-in absentee ballots than in-person voting. This makes intuitive sense, given that the risks of getting caught -- and of being criminally prosecuted -- are presumably higher if one actually shows up in person.

To the extent that states offer in-person early voting, as an increasing number have done over the years, policymakers should consider ways to reduce the lines we've seen in the past few days, in both swing and non-swing states. One of the barriers to such reform in Ohio is a state law prohibiting in-person early voting at more than one location in each county. This may not present a serious problem in smaller counties, where one early voting location may be enough. But it is a problem in larger counties like Cuyahoga (Cleveland area) and Franklin (Columbus), where hours-long lines have been reported. Eliminating such barriers to in-person voting is one of the big things that state legislators, and perhaps even Congress, should consider as we think about future election reforms.

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