How to Fix Long Lines: New Brennan Center Voting Proposal

February 4, 2013

Modernize Registration, Increase Early Voting, Set National Standards

Contact: Erik Opsal,, 646-292-8356

New York, NY – A new Brennan Center proposal outlines a three-part plan to fix long lines at the polls, responding to President Obama’s call for voting reform in both his inaugural address and election night speech.

By modernizing voter registration, providing more early voting opportunities, and setting minimum national standards for polling place access, America can fix the long lines that plague elections and bring the voting system into the 21st century, according to the study.

“This proposal is the best place to start to fix America’s election system,” said Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of the Center’s Democracy Program and author of the report. “The ramshackle voter registration system is a prime cause of long lines and Election Day chaos. By modernizing registration, offering more early voting, and setting national standards, we can ensure no voter has to wait seven hours to make their voice heard.”

The long lines we saw on Election Day in states like Florida, Virginia, and Ohio were the result of an outdated election system. The problem was exacerbated by politicians manipulating the voting rules for their own benefit. Fortunately, some have backed away from such practices, like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who recently agreed to increase the number of early voting days in his state from 8 to 14. This comes after he supported a law to cut them in 2011.

Members of the administration have said voting reform will be a priority in the coming term. Last month, Reps. John Lewis, James Clyburn, and Steny Hoyer, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced the Voter Empowerment Act to make voting more accessible.

“As the world’s leading democracy, the American voting system must be free, fair, and accessible,” said Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser. “This nation was founded on the principle that all are ‘created equal.’ Every citizen has a responsibility to vote on Election Day. But it is the government’s responsibility to make sure the system works for those who exercise this responsibility. This plan will help ease burdens on voters. Those who take the time to participate in democracy are owed at least that much.”

Also read the Brennan Center’s in-depth report on how to modernize voter registration.