Can the System Handle Huge Voter Turnout?

Long lines, close race will trigger legal challenges on Election Day.

ByABC News
October 30, 2008, 11:50 AM

Oct. 30, 2008— -- A record number of Americans are voting early this year, and Election Day turnout is expected to be so high that experts predict long, snaking lines -- and plenty of legal challenges.

If the turnout is as big as expected, and the race is close, lawyers for both parties could file challenges on issues related to provisional and absentee ballots, the expertise of poll workers, the efficacy of voting machines and the hours of operation at polling places.

"A key question," says Edward B. Foley, of Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, "is whether the infrastructure can handle the volume that we will see."

The pressure on the system will be eased in those states where voters have taken advantage of the early vote, but in a battleground state such as Pennsylvania, with no early vote, experts hope that election officials have adequately prepared the system.

Brenda Wright, legal director of the voting rights group Demos says, "There is a lot of attention being paid to preemptive policies, for instance encouraging people to take advantage of early voting and encouraging election officials to have adequate supplies of paper ballots if the machines break down."

But Wright says, "For a lot of voting-rights advocates this is a good news, bad news election. The good news is we expect more people to turn out politically than any presidential election in decades. The bad news is in many places our election system may not be fully prepared to handle the numbers."

Laws regarding elections vary widely from state to state, and many legal challenges are already in front of courts, but on Election Day the campaigns will have to make strategic decisions on how far to push challenges and whether to go to court. Issues expected to be challenged include: