Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Republicans Still Don't Want You To Vote

Republicans Still Don't Want You To Vote

From Iowa Progress:

In the State Senate, Assistant Minority Leader David Johnson has recently introduced a bill that would require voting places to close two hours earlier.

7 PM is a pretty tight deadline for workin' folks...

Contrast this with the Dems attitude, noted at Iowa Voters: Rep. Pam Jochum of Dubuque has an election day voter registration bill. (I suppose I should note that the registration deadline for the February 13 election is this Friday; folks who've been reading since last October know this means Robot may make a comeback)

Iowa Voters also looks at the pollworker shortage and notes that Omaha "drafts" pollworkers, jury-duty style, and that Ohio is looking at it. Not sure we're at that level of crisis yet, but having worked with this stuff for a number o years here's some thoughts.

  • The single biggest barrier to recruiting and retaining pollworkers is the length of the work day. Count the set-up and shut-down time and pollworkers put in a 16 hour day in a general election. That's a long time for a population that's overwhelmingly older, yet law requires that they're hired for the whole day. (Backups are allowed for emergencies) If auditors could hire for half days they could fill more slots.

    And no, I'm not contradicting myself by arguing against shorter voting hours while saying the pollworkers have too long a day. We don't expect clerks at open-all-night stores to work a 24 hour shift...

  • Iowa law requires precincts to be balanced by party affiliation: half GOP, half Dem (it can be off by one if it's an odd number of workers). When he was secretary of state, Chet Culver backed changing the law to allow no-party registered voters to work the polls; I'm not necessarily against that but I don't think it would significantly help fill vacancies; in nine years I don't recall anyone saying "I'd love to work but I absolutely refuse to declare a party." Aside: I wonder how an overwhelmingly Republican place like Sioux County manages to staff an election with 50% Democrats...

  • The best thing I've seen help the pollworker shortage is frontloading the process. The more votes that are cast early, the less the workload at the polling place. Iowa law changed in 1990 and allows anyone to vote early for any reason or no reason, and in Johnson County the absentee rate in big elections has gone up from 3-5% in the `80s (when it was only the traditional travelers and shut-ins) to the 30's and 40's today; early voting even topped 50% in a 2003 special. If half the votes are in the box before election day, it follows that you won't need as many folks staffing the polls.

    Oregon has a different solution: there are no polling places, all elections are by mail.

    I'm early-morning oversimplifying all this, but it's nice to see some election reform discussion out here in the `sphere that's about something other than paper trails.
  • No comments: