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Not the idea of having polling places per say, but the idea that you can have one and only one place to vote.

Have you ever taken advantage of early voting? I have. I went to a local school that was set up for early voting, stood in line for two hours, and voted. Me and lots and lots of other people. There were three or four early voting centers set up in our county. I could have gone to any of them but I picked the one closest to where I live. My name was checked on a computer with the voting roll, so it didn't matter which early voting center I went to. So, why would I have had to go to a specific polling place on the actual election day?

In the good old days, going to a specific polling place made sense. It wasn't that long ago that your name got checked in a huge book (or endless computer print-out). Every polling place had the names of only the people registered to vote at that location. It just would have been physically impossible to do it any other way. You had to have a manageable number of names for poll workers to deal with.

While having designated polling places was mostly a matter of practicality, it could also be  a subtle means of voter suppression. Precincts with the 'less desirable' voters are given antiquated or insufficient voting machines. Some polls are deliberately located to be nearly inaccessible by public transportation. It can work, all because you have one and only one place where you are allowed to cast your ballot.

But that was then and this is now. Poll workers can have access to the entire voter registration database, so why do we cling to the idea of election day voting being tied to your home polling place? I'm not suggesting we get rid of polling places. We can and should still have many polling places open, but you should be able to go to the nearest or most convenient one to cast your ballot. If you live in the suburbs and work downtown, then pop into a polling place near your job to vote on your lunch hour. Are the lines too long at the poll near your house? Go across town to a less-crowded site.  This would help eliminate the congestion at the polls in the evening, when all the 9-5 workers are trying to vote at once. There could be updates throughout the day as to which polling places have the shortest wait times so you can even stop by one that's on your way home.  Once you have voted it is registered in the state-wide database, so you can't vote more than once by going to several polling locations. It would also record the name of the poll worker who checked you in, in case there were questions later.

You can't try to suppress a certain section of the voting population by screwing with their polling place: They can all go to another polling place to vote. If necessary, there can be voter caravans taking busloads of voters over to the 'nicer' polling places (you know we could make this happen). Yes, the poll workers can try to mess with anyone they think shouldn't be voting at their place, but I think any reports of trouble could lead to a large number of 'the wrong kind of people' invading a particular polling place, just to make the point clear.

So when we talk about voter reform, let's think about voting reform. I know the very people who are trying to make voting more difficult for some groups will fight this, but we need to start getting the idea out there.

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