TUESDAY'S election results give us - and the rest of America - plenty to chew on, from Bill O'Reilly's lament that the "white establishment is now the minority," to the significance of the Latino vote, to the long lines and continued problems at polls across the country, including in Philadelphia.
Voting problems - many of which were and are fixable - should be at the top of the list. Especially here in Pennsylvania.
A Commonwealth Court ruling in early October blocked implementation of a controversial voter-ID law for the election. That gave the Department of State more than a month to communicate to voters that although they would be asked for a photo ID at the polls, they could vote without one. And yet, confusion reigned throughout the month, including on Election Day. Requests from poll workers for voter ID was spotty at best, and at a few places posters were displayed that claimed voters wouldn't be able to vote without ID. What's more disturbing is how many people might have stayed home because they thought they were not able to vote without ID. Sadly, we'll never know.
At the same time, at least a few observers have suggested that the obvious attempt to erect barriers for the poor and minority voters actually energized many of them, making them more determined to make the effort to vote. Regardless, the state needs to make voting easier. The Department of State's requirements and restrictions, which generated so much confusion during voter-ID implementation, don't reflect the realities of life in this century. In fact, an Associated Press report in August found that Pennsylvania was one of the worst states for providing ease of voting. Using data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the report pointed out that ours is the most populous state without legalized online voter registration, Election Day registration, early voting or no-excuse absentee balloting. Other states are far ahead of us here.
Voting problems weren't restricted to Pennsylvania: Other states instituted voter-ID laws that were blocked in court. In battleground states like Florida and Ohio, there were ham-handed attempts to make it more difficult to register voters, as well as "purges" of voter registrations based on flimsy to no evidence. Some states that have early voting restricted their hours, leading to waits of several hours to vote. And Miami/Dade County announced early Wednesday that they would need extra time to count absentee ballots, which hinted at a repeat of the problems Florida caused in the 2000 "hanging chad" election.
In his acceptance speech, President Obama made note of the many people who had stood in line to vote and said, "We have to fix that." We agree.
It's long past time to establish national voting standards that guarantee that every person's rights are protected and that participating in democracy isn't an ordeal. In particular, our elections should be overseen by nonpartisan commissions, not by politicians who have demonstrated again this year that they are willing to make voting more difficult in the cause of their party's candidates.