Florida Making Progress In Fixing Problems That Led To 2012 Voting Experience Woes

State improving accessibility at polling places, training of poll workers; should adopt online voter registration, expand opportunities to vote before Election Day

Common Cause report looks at 10 swing states’ records implementing recommendations of Presidential Commission on Election Administration

WASHINGTON, DC — As the 2014 election enters its final days, Florida is making progress in addressing the problems behind the long lines, clerical errors and misallocated resources that bedeviled the 2012 election, according to a new report from Common Cause.

The report, “Did We Fix That? Evaluating Implementation of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s Recommendations in Ten Swing States,” found that many of the 10 key states are largely lagging in implementing the recommendations of President Obama’s non-partisan commission on voting improvements. The Commission was formed after reports of problems at the polls emerged as voters cast their ballots in 2012. “We have to fix that,” President Obama said in his 2012 victory speech. The states covered in the report are: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The report is the first to compare the Presidential Commission’s recommendations with election administration practices in key states. The Commission released its recommendations 10 months ago.

“In 2012, many Floridians felt their right to vote, a core tenet of citizenship, was impaired by the voting process,” said Miles Rapoport, President of Common Cause. “Today’s report shows us that while Florida is making improvements in safeguarding our right to vote, we still have a long way to go. It’s up to us as citizens to make sure these problems are solved.”

A chart showing Florida’s progress implementing the recommendations of the Commission can be found here.

The report found that, unlike many states, Florida has increased opportunities for voting before Election Day, a step that shortens voter wait times. Additionally, the report found the state is making progress in poll worker recruitment by allowing students to serve as poll workers; improving the voter experience by gathering and reporting voter-related transaction data; implementing strong poll worker training programs; and some jurisdictions have started using electronic pollbooks as recommended by the commission. Florida has not, however, adopted online voter registration and does not use vote centers, which could make the ballot box more accessible to voters.   

“States have the power to fix one of the biggest problems with the 2012 election — people waiting six or even 10 hours to cast their votes,” said Common Cause Policy Counsel Stephen Spaulding, who co-authored the report. “If more states followed the Commission’s common-sense recommendations, we could drastically improve the voting experience. Some of these recommendations could be adopted as soon as tomorrow, without changing any formal policies or rules.  Together, these reforms will make voting more convenient and will encourage participation, especially by those historically marginalized.” 

The Commission recommended that states conduct post-election audits to check election results.

The report found that even between Florida and the five other states which do have this requirement — Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — none have fully auditable elections; some of those states’ voting machines lack voter-verifiable paper records and some accept electronic return of voted ballots from military and overseas voters.

“We may be in the age of the iPhone 6, but we should still always check our technology to be sure it’s working for us and not against us,” said Allegra Chapman, Common Cause’s Director of Voting and Elections and a coauthor of the report. “As states continue to modernize elections, they should prioritize requiring and creating the ability to fully audit their elections to ensure election outcomes are what voters intended — not the result of machine malfunction or programming error.”

The report found that several states not covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, including Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia, are disenfranchising voters by largely failing to adopt the Commission’s recommendation to provide sufficient bilingual support for their growing populations of limited English proficient citizens. States should work with advocacy groups to identify bilingual individuals to assist at the polls on Election Day, and before that for both early voting and translation of documents, the study suggested.

There’s room for hope, however: Report authors discovered that a majority of states are moving forward by adopting electronic systems to seamlessly integrate voter data acquired through Departments of Motor Vehicles with statewide voter registration lists. The report urges states to replicate this success by ensuring seamless integration of data acquired through all voter registration agencies, including public assistance agencies and health care exchanges.

The full report can be found online at http://www.commoncause.org/DidWeFixThat.