Mar 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Super Tuesday's own voter fiascos

An illustration of an hourglass with marks falling through it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Voters shouldn’t have to stand in line for hours, but during last night’s Democratic primaries in Texas and California, that nightmare played out in earnest.

Why it matters: Long wait times put a special hardship on low-income voters who are less likely to have flexible work hours, around-the-clock transportation and child care.

In California, machine jams slowed the rolls, delaying lines up to two hours, per the Los Angeles Times.

  • Errors by electronic voter registration equipment also forced citizens to cast provisional ballots that would not be counted until election workers could confirm an individual's eligibility.
  • Voters also expressed confusion over how to use new voting machines, including having to click "more" to see additional candidates in some races.

In Texas, citizens reportedly left precincts due to long lines that took up to six hours, CNN reports.

  • Some of Texas' longest waits were in Harris County, where 40% of the population is Latino and 19% is black.
  • In Austin, precinct openings were delayed after officials failed to show up to work over coronavirus fears, per the Statesman.
  • In Houston, voters in some precincts waited up to five hours amid questions over how the county clerk allocated voting machines, the Houston Chronicle notes.
  • Voters at Texas Southern University — an HBCU — faced malfunctioning machines, per Texas Monthly.

Between the lines: States with a history of voter discrimination used to have to get Justice Department approval to change how they ran elections. That changed in 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the provision enforcing that.

  • Since then, southern states have closed more than 1,200 polling sites, according to a 2019 report by the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights.

The bottom line: America’s democracy has always featured some form of unequal access to the ballot box, but last night was a particularly stark warning about what might be ahead in November.

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