Another way to improve polling-place management, according to the Commission, is for states to establish vote centers at convenient locations. Vote centers are "polling place[s] at which any registered [voter] in the political subdivision holding the election may vote, regardless of the precinct in which the [voter] resides." Clerks at these sites often rely on electronically-accessible county-wide voter registration databases, allowing them to give each voter the appropriate ballot. Because vote centers are centrally located, often near malls and grocery stores or on the way to/from workplaces, they are attractive to both long-time voters and those who have not yet cast a ballot.
In Larimer County, Colorado, where vote centers were adopted in 2003 (before the state switched to a mail-in ballot method), turnout increased by the next election and was directly attributable to their establishment. A 2006 study found that eight percent of surveyed Americans were "too busy" to vote, and another eight percent stated that "it was difficult to get to the polls." The establishment of vote centers statewide, in convenient and accessible locations, could increase turnout.
Of the ten states reviewed, only Colorado and Arkansas have laws allowing or mandating local election officials to establish vote centers. Absentee voting stations, permitted under Alaska law, are located in a number of jurisdictions, and have all 40 district state ballots. Some are open the entire 15-day early-voting period; others are open for shorter times. Four states -- Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Louisiana -- have no statutory authority for vote centers, or plans to establish them. High marks go to Colorado, which uses an almost all-mail ballot system that allows voters to submit ballots by mail, at conveniently located and secure "drop boxes," or to vote in-person at vote centers.
Election authorities in North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, and Louisiana have considered using vote centers over the past decade, but none has adopted statutory language for their establishment. In 2005, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized the Orange County Board of Elections to create a pilot program for the use of vote centers; however, it appears the county did not follow through with this program, and to date, there has been no further consideration of their use. In Georgia, the Secretary of State's Election Advisory Council's 2011 Recommendations Report stated that the "creation of vote centers" is an "item that requires future study by the Secretary of State's Office;" however, there does not appear to have been any further movement or consideration. In Michigan, the Secretary of State's "Meeting 21st Century Challenges" report recommended a pilot super-precinct program.91 And in the past year, Louisiana commissioned a study on election technology, including use of vote centers.
We encourage states to adopt vote centers in all political jurisdictions and in locations easily accessible to both urban and rural populations, especially where turnout has been low. To expand the franchise to citizens who are traditionally marginalized from the political process -- students, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-income persons (which necessarily includes people of color) -- centers should be placed in areas that provide easy access: schools, retirement communities, heavily-trafficked shopping centers in low-income neighborhoods, and the like.
|FINDINGS BY STATE|