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Barriers to the Ballot: The 2008 Election

Advancement Project Releases Barriers to the Ballot: The 2008 Election and Beyond

2008 was a banner year for U.S. democracy and its elections. Many states saw record increases in voter registration – particularly among minority and youth voters – and record increases in voter turnout. Undoubtedly, there was an excitement and new level of attention around this historic election. And, after two presidential elections with angrily disputed results, the 2008 election seemed poised to restore a calm confidence in America’s democratic processes. While the 2008 election ended without the sense of crisis that marked the last two presidential elections, the surface calm may distract from the critical need to continue reforming our election system. Millions of voters continued to be disenfranchised by a variety of election administration failures, and in close elections these failures will continue to undermine national confidence in our democracy.

Barriers to the Ballot looks behind the 2008 results to assess the performance of the election process in five key battleground states where Advancement Project had a strong advocacy presence: Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The report focuses on several illustrative election administration issues in these states and identifies trends that resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands of potential voters as well as trends that made voting easier and more reliable. The report primarily assesses these issues and the states’ performance through the lens of Advancement Project’s voter protection efforts, discussing the months of early research, advocacy, assessment, and litigation that preceded Election Day and resulted in the protection of tens of thousands of voters across the country.

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Nonpartisan political scientists have already estimated that approximately eight million registered non-voters did not vote because of administrative problems – such as long lines at the polls, registration issues, and absentee ballot issues in 2008. Several key challenges – particularly those related to registration and provisional ballots continue to plague the country's election systems. Others, such as improved poll worker training and the allocation of resources, represent nuts-and-bolts government reform that could substantially improve election administration and voter confidence with little fanfare well before voters head to the polls in 2010.

Download the report.


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