Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Study Showed Minority Voters Waited Longer

Newly revealed data shows yet again that minority voters in Florida waited longer on average than their white counterparts to cast their ballots.

The report, commissioned by the Advancement Project and conducted by elections experts Daniel Smith and Michael Herron, showed that voter precincts where African-American and Latino voters cast ballots in higher concentrations than their white counterparts faced longer wait times.

In Miami-Dade County, where higher proportions of minority voters live, the polls were open an extra 73 minutes, on average, beyond closing time to accommodate voters still waiting to cast their ballots. However in Broward County, where more white voters cast ballots, polls were open only an extra 25 minutes on average.

“Despite all the factors that contribute to long lines, it is clear that Floridians had less access to the ballot box in 2012 because there were six fewer days of early voting,” Katherine Culliton-Gonz├ílez, Director of Voter Protection for Advancement Project, said.

The report was one of many presented to a meeting of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration at a Friday meeting in Coral Gables, along with testimony from the authors behind a similar study that found those disparities in wait times occurred nationwide.

The study conducted by researchers from Harvard and MIT found black and Hispanic voters stood in line nearly twice as long as white voters, and that Florida had the longest waits in the country: an average 39-minute wait compared to only two minutes in Vermont. Nationwide, data showed that white voters waited an average of only 12 minutes to vote, while African-American voters waited 24 minutes on average and Hispanic voters waited 19 minutes.

The researchers say their data doesn’t show that minority voters are discriminated against individually.

“It’s not so much that individual minority voters are being discriminated against,” researcher Charles Stewart said, according to the Miami Herald. “It’s that the places where minority voters tend to vote have long lines. In those areas, even white voters have long lines.”

Friday’s hearing was the first of four events planned for some of the battleground states that saw problems on Election Day 2012. Florida has been seen as especially problematic, with some voters waiting between five and eight hours to cast their ballots. The commission is set to hold hearings in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Ohio as well before it reports on its findings.

While the president’s bipartisan election reform commission works to identify ways to improve the election system, the Supreme Court has issued a decision last week that effectively guts the Voting Rights Act and its provisions that protected voters in certain Florida counties from discriminatory election changes. The ability to restore that protection now rests with Congress. On Sunday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte said his committee plans to hold hearings on the topic but would not say that if he believes new legislation should be pursued.

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