Election officials in both states are hoping to avoid a repeat of the problem for the elections being held on Nov. 4. They've bought new equipment, carved out smaller, more manageable precincts, and trained volunteers to better manage long lines, according to The Washington Post.
The new effort comes after the Government Accountability Office found that Maryland, Virginia and Florida were the nation's three worst-performing states in terms of delays during the 2012 elections.
About 12 percent of voters in both Maryland and Virginia had to wait for more than an hour to vote, sometimes outdoors in the cold, the report found.
And though voting delays often stem from mundane issues, such as faulty equipment, they can be perceived as suspicious, especially in jurisdictions that have a history of voter discrimination
In Prince William County in 2012, for example, mostly African American voters who showed up to vote at River Oaks Elementary School were forced to wait outside for as long as four hours.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who pushed for the GAO report after community meetings, said he doesn't believe longer waits for minorities are by design, but it was nonetheless the effect.
It was minority communities that were mostly affected, and that has the effect of discouraging voter participation in the community, Connolly said. That is what we want to make sure does not happen again.
The GAO report was based on a survey of the nation's 10,500 local elections offices, with specific questions addressed to Prince William County and four other municipalities where voters experienced lengthy waits. Delays were caused by overly long ballots, outdated equipment and poor management inside voting precincts, the report found.
Connolly and other lawmakers have pushed for legislation that would award grants to states based on how well they meet several criteria, including cutting wait times at polling places, boosting training for poll workers, and expanding early voting and registration opportunities.
The franchise is sacred, Connolly said. We've got to make sure we do everything possible so that everyone who wants to cast a vote is able to cast that vote.
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