Can the System Handle Huge Voter Turnout?

Drawing the line at lines. States have different interpretations at where the end of the line is. Some states set up a "chute system" and use it to make such a designation. Both parties will look to challenge this issue. According to Thomas Wheeler, a Republican lawyer in Indiana, "Democrats will fight to keep polls open and Republicans will fight to ensure that anyone in line when the poll closes can vote, but that new people aren't added to the line after polls close."

Challenges to the hours of operation of polling places.If lines are long, parties could attempt to go to court and extend the hours of poll places. This could provide crucial delays as the public waits for the outcome of a battleground state. Under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, if hours are extended by court order, voters are required to cast provisional ballots instead of regular ballots. Provisional ballots would be counted later, which would add to processing issues.

"Extending polling hours will be one of the major requests we see on Election Day," says John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action. "It's a sad reality when turnout numbers hover so low for recent presidential elections. If you see jurisdictions facing huge turnout, there may not be enough ballots, or people or machines," he says.

"The burden should be on the state. A voter should not be disenfranchised because he only had 15 minutes to vote and it turned out it was at the end of the day," says Bonifaz.

Challenges for extended hours could lead to equal protection arguments. Some might chafe at extending hours for some counties and not for others.

Says Wright, "The very fact that you may have some voters getting through polling places in 15 minutes, while other voters are having to wait for hours creates a potential equal protection problem."

On Election Day both campaigns will make calculated decisions on how hard to challenge and when to go to court. It's a strategy difficult to make until the votes come rolling in.

Foley hopes that there won't be anything on the horizon that would cause doubt in the system. He thinks it's "unlikely," but maintains, "the biggest concern is if tens of thousands show up to vote and the system can't process them, that is what you hope is avoided. That's the biggest threat."

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