Ohio Should Establish Reasonable Voting Wait Time


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Peg Rosenfield, LWVO Elections Specialist
August 24, 2009 614-469-1505

Ohio Should Establish Reasonable Voting Wait Time Goal

Remember the 2004 presidential election when voters waited in line 4, 8 even up to 12 hours—many in the rain—to cast their ballots? This was one of the problems that earned Ohio the infamous mantle, "poster child of bad elections." Long waits on Election Day discourage—even disenfranchise—voters, as Ohioans well know from past elections.

The historic settlement agreement in LWVO et al. v. Brunner, reached this past June, therefore included a requirement that the Secretary of State issue a report by August 30, 2009, on the feasibility of establishing a statewide maximum permissible wait time for voters on Election Day. The agreement ended a four-year-old lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) and 13 co-plaintiffs seeking to force the state to address multiple election-administration problems that for 30 years, election after election, prevented many Ohio voters from having the chance to vote in a fair election and from having their votes counted.

Today Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued her report assessing the causes for long wait times. She concluded it is not practical to establish a statewide maximum length of time beyond which voters should not have to wait to vote on Election Day. The report cites the varying conditions which different counties face, as well as the practical problem of how to enforce such a requirement.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio applauds Secretary Brunner for the report’s timeliness and its thorough research and assessment of the issues—and for her work to prevent long Election-Day wait times in 2008. We anticipate that the directives issued in 2008 addressing the issue will continue in effect, but believe that there are additional steps which must be taken.

While it may be impractical to establish a statewide maximum permissible Election-Day wait time for voters, the LWVO believes it is critical that Secretary Brunner establish a clear statewide goal for maximum permissible Election-Day wait times. With such a goal, it would be the responsibility of each county board of election to analyze the problem at the county level based on past elections and a current pre-election assessment. Each county’s pre-election Contingency Plan, required and reviewed by the Secretary of State, should address how the county plans to avoid long Election-Day wait times and how they plan to deal with the problem should it arise.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio urges Secretary Brunner to establish such a goal and require each county board of elections to develop a plan to reach the goal. This would institutionalize the reform—and ensure that county boards address the issue.