At Facing South, we've been reporting on one of the biggest election stories in 2008: the failure of states to adequately prepare for easily-anticipated high turnout, leading to enormously long lines and long waits that are discouraging many voters.

Some of the worst horror stories have come from Florida and Georgia, like this one from Riverdale, GA:
[Melvin Dubose] showed up at the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale, Georgia, at 9 a.m. hoping to cast his vote early.

At 2 p.m. Dubose had just reached the front of the line -- that ran hundreds deep and snaked around the senior center into the back parking lot.

After battling temperatures in the 40s and finally reaching the front door, yet another line and voter information forms stood between Dubose and the voting booth.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "It's worth it, but it's completely unnecessary. We shouldn't have to wait four or five hours in the cold to be able to vote."
Yesterday, after over a week of reports that voters were waiting up to six hours to vote, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist issued an executive order requiring early voting hours and locations be expanded. That's so far the boldest move taken by a Southern state to accommodate the record-setting turnout -- but as critics point out, it only came after eight days of voters being turned away at the polls.

Some commentators are waxing nostalgic about the long lines and waits as a sign that democracy is thriving. In reality, they're a sign that our democracy is broken.

Long lines are a voting rights issue. They disproportionately keep voters who have health problems, or who have work and family responsibilities to tend to, from participating.

The impact is significant. According to one survey, some 129,000 voters in Ohio claimed they were stopped from voting because of long lines in the 2004 elections [pdf]; bi-partisan studies estimate 5,000 to 15,000 were disenfranchised in Columbus, OH alone. President Bush won the battleground state -- and therefore the election -- by 118,000 votes.