An Activists’ Guide to Election Day: Those long lines

This post is the first in a short series of posts that will be written from now until election day. They are a basic guide on how to utilize the great opportunity that is Election Day (or early voting, depending on where you’re from). The posts will mostly pertain to third party activists, although you can take what you want from them.

This first one is about how you can take advantage of the long lines that form on Election Day. And this year will be no exception for them. In fact, based on the number of registered voters and early voting, we are looking at unprecedented voter turnout. And, unfortunately, that means hours-long lines for voting in many places across the county.

Even though this is a bane to the electoral process, Kim Wilder argues that it can be a boon for activists. She says that not only can you use the lines to promote the cause of your choice (and annoy the voters of your choice), but you can actually make the lines shorter in the future by using them to promote independent candidates now.

Wilder writes:

KW: Want to clear up long voting lines at the polls and make Republican Commissioners of Elections/Secretaries of State add new voting machines and better service?

Solution: Use the long voting lines, that extend passed the measured out “electioneering zone” in front polling places, to distribute literature for competing third party candidates.

While it is probably not the case that third party voting can be considered to take away votes from major party candidates under a clear, formula system, there can be some speculation that very right-leaning candidates and parties, will take a lot of votes away from Republican John McCain, and that candidates and parties with a strong civil rights component might strip away some moderate Republicans.

So, someone should find all the states where there is a Republican Election Commissioner/Secretary of State, and/or a Republican hope to win the state, and if there are long lines, go flier for the following candidates, listed in preference order…

Even if you don’t have a Secretary of State who suppresses voter turnout where you live, you can still use polling places to hand out literature for your own cause, whether it’s a party, an idea, a ballot initiative, or whatever your heart desires.

And even if you don’t have long lines, you can still hand out literature to all of those wonderful registered voters coming and going from designated polling places all day long. Just set up a chair and sit there for a few hours talking to them on their way in or out, handing out brochures and fliers.

During the Pennsylvania primaries in April, I made up a flier about a bunch of minor party candidates running for president and a flier about Mike Gravel’s run for the Libertarian nomination and spent the day at various polling places handing them out. There weren’t any lines, but I still gave them to at least a few dozen people and got a couple of positive reactions. This time around, I plan to either help people who have had trouble voting, hand out literature about the National Initiative for Democracy, or both.

Election Day is one of the best opportunities for advancing your cause on the grassroots level. Not taking advantage of it would be a huge mistake.

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