Election Day News Lead?

[ Posted Thursday, October 30th, 2008 – 17:16 UTC ]

While the news from Election Night is going to be all about losers and winners from various parts of the country, I think that the news from Election Day is going to be similar across a large number of states. I'm talking about what the news story will be before the returns actually start coming in, later in the evening. Because I think the news lead is going to be: "Polling places overwhelmed by flood of voters" or maybe "Election officials say they just weren't ready."

But before we get into that, we have a cartoon for your amusement...


About the Cartoonist  |  Reprint Policy

Allow me to begin by saying I have no inside information, and that this is all just rampant speculation. Although mildly frightening, this is not my Hallowe'en horror story for the year. [Program Note: that's tomorrow!] And I do not possess a time machine, so I didn't jump to next Tuesday and then return to give you the news (if I had done that, I'd be in Vegas betting on the outcome of the race). But I still have this feeling that in county after county, in state after state, we are going to see an election process get swamped by a tidal wave of voters.

I should also state that I don't think much of this will be in any way intentional. While there are some nefarious and partisan election officials in certain parts of the country who make behind-the-scenes mischief, the vast majority of them are honest and hardworking individuals who truly care about holding an election Americans can be proud of. But I just don't think they're ready for what is about to happen.

I think as everyone tunes into the news Election Night, to fill time before the returns start coming in the main story is going to be video after video of hideously long lines, and stories are going to abound about polling places which will be staying open late to handle the load. I honestly hope we don't get even more dire stories, such as "we ran out of ballots" or "we just didn't have enough poll workers to let everyone vote," but I can sadly see the possibility of even those sorts of thing happening.

Again, for the most part, I don't see any evil intent at play. Oh, sure, everyone knows that in the wealthier neighborhoods the lines are shorter and the polling places more numerous, but I honestly think the turnout is going to be astonishing. Astonishing not just to us, sitting at home watching on television, but astonishing to the election officials charged with running our electoral process.

Because I think they've gotten a little complacent about America's normally dismal turnout rate, and I think they just don't know what's about to hit them. Only just over half of eligible American citizens usually vote. Even in presidential elections. A large percentage of people never even bother to register, much less vote.

But this time, the public is feeling downright enfranchised. There's just no other word to describe it. People are motivated, interested, and have been paying attention for months now. They are going to vote. They are not going to forget, or get sidetracked, or decide they have better things to do. They're going to show up at the polls on Election Day. In droves.

When an election official thinks there is going to be a heavy turnout, they typically plan for something like 10 or 20 percent higher than normal. That may not be enough this year. If total overall turnout of eligible voters hits the stratospheric heights of 70 percent (or even 75 or 80 percent) then in many places this will mean a doubling of the amount of votes cast. And having 20 percent more ballots on hand isn't going to be enough.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong about this. But I really do worry that before we get to states turning red and blue on magic maps, video screens, and even (thanks, NBC) an ice rink, I think there's going to be another story on Election Day. And I think it's going to prominently feature the words "overwhelming turnout." I just hope it doesn't also feature the phrase "the system has broken down."


-- Chris Weigant


8 Comments on “Election Day News Lead?”

  1. [1] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Given that high turnout is a good thing for Democrats, I'd say this would be a good problem to have.

  2. [2] 
    fstanley wrote:

    Good Cartoon! Will this be a regular thing again?

    With regards to turnout - I can understand that it might be difficult to get more voting machines but there really is no excuse for not having tonnes of extra paper ballots on hand in the polling stations since there has been so much talk about the possibility of a high turnout for months now.


  3. [3] 
    kevinem2 wrote:

    Chris- If you don't already know about this 82 year-old woman's blog site, check this out:
    Much as I enjoy your writing and site, I think I'm in love. I read all of her posts this morning, and I predict she'll become an international web sensation. Please, please, please Weiganteers; give this site a gander and let me know if I'm wrong.
    Michale- belated congratulations.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:


    :D Many thanx. The little tyke should be home tonight, so then the REAL fun starts!! :D


    First off, LOVE the Halloween title graphics! Especially the err... Cat In The Hat.. Yuk Yuk Yuk.
    (Oh com'on!! You HAD to know THAT was coming! :D)
    Anyways, love the new graphics.. You should do it like GOOGLE. They alter their title to conform to whatever time of year it is. :D

    Moving on, I am also very heartened by your estimate of what Voting Day will be like. Not so much by your guess about how busy it will be. I am sure it will be. What makes me all warm and fuzzy is (once again) how you make it a point (several times) that, in your opinion, the long lines and voting day incidents will not be nefarious in nature. Once again, you show why should be the one stop shop for those interested in Politics with all the bigotry..

    Having said that (and the surreptitiously wiping all the brown stuff off my nose) I have to say that, once again, you will be the exception rather than the rule..

    Although my prognostication record is dismal, I think I can make a case for this prediction. Starting Monday we're going to see a massive amount of fraud stories. Stories that might have some niggling basis in fact but will be otherwise nothing but pure unadulterated political bigotry. Screams and accusations of fraud, assaults, voter disenfranchisement and other such bogus claim will be the rule of the days, starting Monday.

    And, if by some miracle, McCain DOES win this thing.

    This country is going to explode...

    Call me cynical and it's probably true. Other than this site, my political exposure is from the likes of HuffPo and Taylor Marsh. While I realize that the Democrats who inhabit those places are not the shining example of who Democrats really are, it's hard not to accept those kinds as the norm. Especially when objective news reportings confirm things..

    So, my predictions is that Tuesday will be the mad house that you predict it to be.. But I will also add that the bigotry and hatred will ALSO be order of the day and that Election Day violence will be record-setting by far..

    Here's to hoping I am wrong once again...


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Once again, you show why should be the one stop shop for those interested in Politics with all the bigotry..

    Arrrggg!!! I hate when I do that..

    That should read....

    "Once again, you show why should be the one stop shop for those interested in Politics without all the bigotry.."


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    On an unrelated note...

    Gas Prices

    USA - Kansas City, KS - $1.96 per gallon

    My Area - St Augustine, FL - $2.29

    State of FL - Nokomis, FL - $1.53 ( I shit you not!!)


  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Actually, I mis-typed... Gas at a station in Nokomis, FL is $1.49!!!


  8. [8] 
    BLaws wrote:

    The polling stations know exactly who is registered and who is not. Thus they know how many people could show up. They should have enough ballots for 100% turn out. Yes... I know that it won't happen, and that you will "waste" ballots. But my father was in the printing industry. Printing for 60% turn out, or printing for 100% turn out (even with a few extras for misprints/mess ups) is not significantly more expensive.

    The main cost in printing is the set up of the run (artwork, plates, etc). Once you have it running, running off even twice as many doesn't cost twice as much. Not even close.

    Sure, many places charge per X amount, but they are generally screwing you on the amount over the first batch. But for huge orders (like this would be) the costs are significantly less if you negotiate for the larger run.

    Yeah, it would cost more to run 100% ballots... but it can't be worse than the problems it causes when they run out (like they did here in Ohio during the Primaries) and had to run some across town at the last second.

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