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New Study: Seven Early Voting Ideas to Improve Outdated Election Process

As voters head to the polls next week and election officials review voting protocols, the Brennan Center released a new report detailing the benefits of early voting programs and offering recommendations to improve our outdated elections.

October 31, 2013

Early In Person Voting Reduces Stress on the Elec­tion System and Provides Greater Access to Voting, Report Finds

For Imme­di­ate Release: Octo­ber 31, 2013

Contact: Erik Opsal, 646–292–8356, erik.opsal@nyu.edu

New York, NY – As voters across the coun­try head to the polls next week and elec­tion offi­cials review their voting proto­cols, the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law today released a new report detail­ing the bene­fits of early voting programs and offer­ing recom­mend­a­tions to substan­tially improve our outdated elec­tion process.

Based on extens­ive inter­views with elec­tion offi­cials and an analysis of state early voting laws, Early Voting: What Works proposes seven early voting recom­mend­a­tions that would improve the process for both voters and elec­tion offi­cials, and provide more oppor­tun­it­ies for citizens to cast a ballot.

“Given the increas­ing demands on many Amer­ic­ans’ sched­ules, early in person voting adds import­ant flex­ib­il­ity and conveni­ence to modern­ize the voting process, while keep­ing elec­tions safe and secure,” said the Bren­nan Center’s Diana Kasdan, author of the report. “It reduces the admin­is­trat­ive burdens of the Elec­tion Day rush and helps bring our anti­quated voting system into the 21st century.”

Elec­tion offi­cials also strongly support early voting. “Early voters are happy voters, and Elec­tion Day voters are grumpy voters,” said Larry Lomax, who served as the regis­trar of voters in Clark County, Nevada, for more than 15 years and is now a member of the Pres­id­en­tial Commis­sion on Elec­tion Admin­is­tra­tion.

In contrast to a string of new state laws designed to restrict voting, at least 20 states considered propos­als to start or expand early voting this year. These efforts are expec­ted to continue in the next legis­lat­ive session, with oppor­tun­it­ies anti­cip­ated in Massachu­setts, New Jersey, and New York, among other states.

The five primary bene­fits from effect­ive early voting programs iden­ti­fied in the report include:

  • Reduced stress on the voting system on Elec­tion Day;
  • Shorter lines on Elec­tion Day;
  • Improved poll worker perform­ance;
  • Early iden­ti­fic­a­tion and correc­tion of regis­tra­tion errors and voting system glitches; and
  • Greater access to voting and increased voter satis­fac­tion.

Today, early voting laws vary substan­tially state-to-state and even across local juris­dic­tions within states. Although a number of states have already recog­nized these bene­fits and are adopt­ing or expand­ing their early voting programs, voters in many states are still required to rearrange their sched­ules and wait in line on Elec­tion Day to parti­cip­ate in the polit­ical process.

Based on extens­ive research, the report recom­mends that all states and local juris­dic­tions imple­ment the follow­ing early voting policies to expand the bene­fits of early voting nation­wide:

  • Begin early in person voting two weeks before Elec­tion Day;
  • Provide week­end voting, includ­ing during the week­end before Elec­tion Day;
  • Set minimum daily hours for early voting and provide exten­ded hours outside stand­ard busi­ness hours;
  • Allow use of both private and public facil­it­ies;
  • Distrib­ute early voting places fairly and equit­ably;
  • Update poll books daily; and
  • Educate the elect­or­ate about early voting.