In 2000, once the Supreme Court stopped the vote count, George W. Bush won the state of Florida by 537 votes.
Five hundred and thirty-seven votes.
In 2012, pundits saw an election that was just as close, if not closer, than 2000. Even The New York Times‘ Nate Silver, who ended up calling 50 out of 50 states, was unsure if the state would go to President Obama or Mitt Romney when the voting started on November 6. Even after the polls closed, after the election had been called for President Obama by everyone who wasn’t Karl Rove, the state was too close to call.
Across the states, reports of lines that kept voters waiting as long as nine hours were all the evidence you needed to suggest the GOP was trying to stop those who work hourly jobs and have families to take care of from voting.
The only question was if the GOP’s plan to give the state to Mitt Romney would work.
Of course, the president ended up winning the state by 73,189 votes. But a new study shows shows that President Obama should have won the state by a much larger margin. Theodore Allen, an associate professor of industrial engineering at OSU, took a look at voting in central Florida and found that as many as 49,000 voters did not vote because of the long lines. Those who did not vote favored Obama by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, 30,000 to 19,000.
That Florida was not prepared to handle its voters was an open secret even before Election Day. Governor Rick Scott canceled several days of early voting and refused to extend early voting hours, as Governor Charlie Crist did in 2008, when it became clear that the lines were unbearably long due to a ballot that was extraordinarily long.
The fact that Allen found that Latinos and blacks were disportionately affected by the long lines is no surprise.
Florida, like nearly all Southern states, passed a series of measures after the 2010 election aimed at keeping typically Democratic constituencies from voting. The Nation‘s Ari Berman labeled this effort “The GOP’s War on Voting,” but it largely backfired thanks to the efforts of Berman and others to make voters aware that their rights were being purposely subverted.
Allen first started studying the impact of long lines on voting in 2004 when he found that enough voters had left lines in Ohio to have swung the state from John Kerry to George W. Bush. He found that for every hour they were in line, about 3 percent of voters gave up and left .
Thus when Democrats look at the results of Allen’s studies, they see the need to make adjustments — such as more early voting days and posters in polling places that help voters preview the ballot — to make it easier to vote.
Whereas Republicans like Rick Scott seem to use them as a textbook on how to steal an election.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com