Survey reveals voting disparities on Nov. 4

African-American voters waited more than twice as long as others to vote in last month's presidential election, and Hispanics were asked to show identification more often, a survey released Tuesday showed.

Although Election Day ran smoothly for most voters, the survey of 10,000 people by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found at least one in four voters lack confidence that their votes were counted correctly.

Major problems that had been predicted for Election Day never developed, unlike in 2000 and 2004, and the survey reflects that. Only 2% of those polled said they had a problem with their registration at the polls. Similarly, only 2% reported problems with voting equipment.

More than eight in 10 voters said their polling places were very well run; seven in 10 said poll workers performed excellently; and less than 1% rated their service as "poor."

Black voters, however, reported waiting in lines for an average of 29 minutes to vote on Election Day and 43 minutes to cast ballots before Nov. 4, as 34 states allow. That was more than twice the average wait for others: 13 minutes on Election Day and 20 minutes when voting early.

Charles Stewart, an MIT political science professor, said the disparity could have been caused by election officials not providing enough voting equipment and workers in precincts with large black populations. The Advancement Project, a civil rights group, warned in October that six battleground states had not allocated sufficient resources to minority areas.

"Driving around Richmond (Va.) on Election Day, that was the case," said Judith Browne-Dianis, the group's co-director. "I could drive up to a black precinct and there would be a long line, and I could drive up to a white precinct and it would be a 10-minute wait."

Stewart said the disparity also could have been due to larger-than-expected turnout among black voters — a phenomenon he called "voting as an event," in which long lines attract voters. Most people who experienced long lines said the delay was to check in, not to get a machine.

Among the findings of the survey, conducted for the Pew Center on the States and senior citizens' lobby AARP:

• More than one in 10 voters were asked for identification in states where it is not required. In the three states that require a photo ID — Florida, Georgia and Indiana — two in 10 voters were never asked to provide it. Hispanics were asked for ID more often in those states than other voters.

• While 75% of Election Day voters said they were confident their ballots were counted correctly, the number dropped to 61% among absentee voters.

• Democrats were more confident about the process in states that traditionally vote Democratic, such as New York, and Republicans in "red states" such as Texas. In states such as Virginia that were closely contested, independent voters were less confident about the process.

• Among those who did not vote, 16% said they had registration problems, 10% couldn't find their polling places, and 8% said their requested absentee ballots never arrived.

As a result of the survey's findings, Browne-Dianis said states should set strict standards for allocating resources. "We have to start equalizing the resources across the board," she said.

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