Waiting in long lines for hours to vote could be a thing of the past if just-introduced federal legislation becomes law.
On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a state already known for its innovative approach to voting, introduced the People Over Long Lines or POLL Act. The bill requires governments to guarantee every voter has a chance to vote within 30 minutes. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration has determined that half an hour is the maximum time voters should have to wait.
Long lines were an issue during the recent election cycle. In Georgia, where it is now a crime to give food or drink to voters waiting in line. It was not unusual for voters in some communities, especially communities of color, to have to wait hours to vote.
Younger people and people of color helped increase Georgia’s voter rolls by two million people in recent years, according to the Georgia Secretary of State. At the same time, the number of polling places has been reduced statewide by 10 percent according to a 2020 analysis by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica.
Long lines at the polls tend to discourage older people, working people, and people of color from voting, Wyden said in a June 17 opinion piece he wrote for Democracy Docket. Democracy Docket is an online newsletter founded by attorney and voting right expert Marc Elias. The newsletter features experts’ insights on topics such as democracy, voting rights, redistricting, and elections.
The proposed POLL Act falls in line with efforts by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reduce lengthy wait times for voters. Raffensperger has been pushing for years for legislation to outlaw long wait times, spokesman Walter Jones told Atlanta Civic Circle Friday in an email. He succeeded this year when SB 202 became law. That new law includes a requirement, backed by Raffensperger, that counties add machines or split precincts when voters have to wait in line longer than 30 minutes on Election Day.
In March, Georgia was recognized by a federal agency for its enhanced election security and innovation. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission cited the Secretary of State office’s use of line-monitoring technology to track wait times at polling sites during early voting and to address any technical glitches that arose on Election Day in real-time.