Central voting centers to increase turnout

A Fort Wayne Journal Gazette article “Voting centers could prevent election disaster” (5/16/07) highlights the success of a Wayne County experiment in having fewer centralized voting centers that are open for several days in the run-up to the election.  It increases the chance that highly skilled personnel can be found to manage the process, rather than relying on much lower quality poll workers that typically must be recruited.  (This problem was one motivation that led to the Carter-Baker Commission (Jimmy Carter/James Baker) arguing for weekend voting, in the assumption that better poll workers could be recruited when voting did not happen on a typical workday.  The official name of the Commission was the Commission on Federal Election Reform.  CFER also endorsed Voting Centers as their recommendation #4.3.) The Wayne County pilot replaced 31 precinct polling places with just four centralized voting centers.  The article notes:

Finding enough inspectors, judges and poll clerks to adequately monitor the state’s 5,648 active precincts has been a challenge for years. The $110 stipend paid to inspectors and $70 given other poll workers is little incentive for a job that requires training and a 14-hour workday. And grass-roots folk just aren’t as eager to work the polls as they once were. As political scientist Robert Putnam reported at the end of the 20th century, “By almost every measure, Americans’ direct engagement in politics and government has fallen steadily and sharply over the last generation.”

Richmond got slightly higher voting rates than typical: 16% of registered voters turned out which was over a 50% jump for the 2003 election where 11% turned out.  Moreover, Wayne County needed 80% fewer poll workers than typical.   The program was modeled after a Larimer County, CO similar program that has gotten a 96.4% turnout in their 2004 general election with a combination of centralized voting centers. absentee ballots and early voting.

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