Vote Centers or Super Precincts


(More bad ideas for Election Reform)

Vote Centers or Super Precincts

~ Poll Tax of the 21st Century ~

By Joyce McCloy, Founder of the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting. See Download printable report  here.

Super Precincts, Vote Centers or “Mega Precincts” are often defined as a polling place at which any registered voter in the political subdivision holding the election may vote, regardless of the precinct in which the voter lives.The advantage is that there is no wrong place to vote. In some states, the Vote Centers are open multiple days or weeks prior to Election Day. 

To pay for Vote Centers, sacrifices are made:  Which precincts will be eliminated?  Who decides?   The number of voting locations and voting machines are cut by as much as 66% or more. Neighborhood election day precincts are often eliminated. Certain segments of the population have a bigger burden in trying to excercise their right to vote. Vote Centers or Super Precincts don’t serve the voter’s needs or the precise requirements for democratic elections — transparency being one of them.
Straight off, they move polling places away from the neighborhood locations where voters without the means can have easier access.

Super Precincts or Vote Centers can become a poll-tax for the elderly, disabled, poor and rural voters – because of the additional travel, time, missed work or physical stress of waiting in long lines to vote. Voters can no longer walk or travel a short distance to vote.  For disabled, the voting location is no longer in a familiar neighborhood, and may be in a busy crowded facility.  Election officials have to rely more on expensive and error prone technologies such as electronic poll books and touch-screen voting machines. When equipment crashes or fails to work, greater numbers of voters are simultaneously disenfranchised.  Denial of service attacks affect larger portions of voters. (More eggs in one basket)

In 2006 one North Carolina election official from Guilford County proposed a plan for Vote Centers that would serve 10,000 voters each and reduce voting locations and voting equipment by two thirds (2/3).  See page two for that plan. County Commissioners unanimously voted that plan down.

A report on precinct sizes put together for the North Carolina State Board of Elections presents information about the effect of size and numbers of precincts. This report was put together by Edward Packard, an elections administrator for the Secretary of State of Alabama.

Limitations of Large Voting Precincts – “Mega-Precincts”

While large voting precincts, “mega-precincts” (precincts with over 2,000 voters), may be useful under certain circumstances, they have their own limitations which may adversely affect activities on election day:  Highlights below:

      • “The general consensus among election officials is that 1,500 voters is a desirable target for the base size of a voting precinct.”
      • “While large voting precincts, ”mega-precincts” (precincts with over 2,000 voters), may be useful under certain circumstances, they have their own limitations which may adversely affect activities on election day.”
      • “Even when centralized, individuals may have to travel farther to reach the polls, especially if the precinct is not compact. Additionally, highly urbanized areas experience problems with traffic congestion that coincides with the peak voting hours before and after traditional work hours.”
      • “When they reach the polls, voters in large precincts face the prospect of long lines, particularly during the peak voting hours. In past elections, the State Board of Elections office has received many calls from individuals reporting congested polling places and excessive waiting to cast a ballot. In some cases, these potential voters indicated they did not have the chance to vote due the inconvenience, and even burden, arising from these factors.”
      • “”Mega-precincts,” especially those that encompass large geographic areas, are more likely to be split among various districts for the same offices. For example, two or more state senate or state house seats may represent different portions of the same precinct. As a result, polling officials in this ”split precinct” must properly administer multiple ballot styles and ensure that individuals cast ballots only for the races in which they are qualified to vote. Historically, the use of multiple ballot styles in a split precinct has the created confusion on the part of some election officials and voters. 

Vote Centers or Super Precincts (cont’d)

From the Election Center Website, here is the plan by George Gilbert for Voting Centers:
  • Reduce the number of precincts
  • Voting Centers will serve up to 10,000 voters!
  • Guilford will reduce number of voting machines by two thirds,  from 1,212 machines to 420 machines
  • Reduce the number of voting locations by two thirds, from 159 regular precincts and 11 early voting sites to 40 Vote Centers.
  • People will get to drive/walk/ride the bus farther to go to their consolidated voting center
Some negative consequences of Voting Centers or Super Precincts:
  • disenfranchises poor, disabled, elderly, and any persons with transportation issues
  • farther to drive/walk/ride the bus to get to the consolidated polling places
  • exposes larger numbers of votes to risks in more concentrated locations
  • creates dependency on electronic poll books, providing a new risk of “denial of service”
  • incentivizes the spread of less reliable touch-screen Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting machines


January 20, 2006.  Guilford County Commissioners rejected Mr. Gilbert’s plan to eliminate two thirds of all voting locations. See


Vote Centers or Super Precincts (cont’d)

Vote Centers create a significant risk to elections

a denial of service of any kind can prevent tens of thousands of people from voting.


November 2006 Election Day Failures at Vote Centers in Colorado


11/17/2006 Machine malfunction CO Hart InterCivic Montrose County. Machines broke down in all seven vote centers. Montrose Pavilion was the worst, where 11 out of 12 eSlate electronic voting machines broke down. Insufficient paper ballots were available, so poll workers made copies, which the scanners failed to read. Story Archive Story2


11/14/2006 Ballot printing error CO Sequoia Denver. Sequoia misprinted the barcodes that identify precincts on absentee ballots, so the county has to sort 70,000 ballots into the 23 different ballot styles. “Sequoia’s vice president of communications, Michelle Shafer, did not return four calls and pages seeking comment.” Story Archive


11/8/2006 E-pollbook malfunction CO Sequoia Denver. E-poll books failed, computers crashed and voting machines broke down across the city, causing long lines and waits up to three hours. Story Archive

Computer glitches prevented thousands of residents from voting, piles of absentee ballots are still to be counted, and Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher today asked that Denver’s two elected voting commissioners – Susan Roger and Sandy Adams – resign and that the mayor fire Clerk and Recorder Wayne Vaden as well as the entire senior staff of the election commission, including executive director John Gaydeski. Story Archive

11/16/06 update. It is revealed that “Denver election officials never tested the capacity of the troubled computer systems they used to verify voter registrations on Election Day – an omission one computer expert called “shocking” and others said seemed shortsighted.” StoryArchive


11/7/2006 E-pollbook malfunction CO Sequoia Denver. At the Convention Center, though 100 people stood in line, only 25 percent of the voting machines were in use at any given time, as poll workers tried to get verification of voter registration from computers that were frequently down. At Denver Botanic Gardens, more than 200 voters backed up in a line that stretched out of the gates and down the block more than half way to 11th Avenue. At Corona Presbyterian Church, voters were being told to expect about a two-hour wait as they snaked around the building. Many voters were unable to wait. Story Archive
11/7/2006 Machine malfunction CO Sequoia Denver. Power failures, voting machines crashing, electronic poll books failing cause long lines and chaos in the Denver election. Judge refuses to extend the voting time. Voters are encouraged to go to other vote centers, but many vote centers are experiencing similar problems. Story Archive
11/2/2006 Poor design CO Sequoia Denver. Poll workers struggle to learn how to use the Sequoia touch screen voting machines. Training sessions in Jefferson and Denvercounties this week showed that although some judges are comfortable with computerized voting machines, others are baffled. Many of the judges are retired and trying to learn new technologies, often after years of working all-paper elections. “I’ve reached my saturation point,” said Pat Gressett, 77, after more than an hour working with the new computers. Story Archive


(Table by Voters Unite. )


Vote Centers or Super Precincts (cont’d)


Another Bad Idea Recommended by “The Election Center

The Election Center highlights Vote Centers in their report of the 2004 election here

(warning this is a slow loading, huge file, about 2 mg).

The Election Center is an organization that is supposed to educate and inform election officials, but accepts money from voting machine companies.

(their website here –   and more information about problems with Election Center here 


January 01, 2007. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Heads to DC. The Fox in the Henhouse Series, Part III

Does the Election Center lobby for the voters’ or for the interest of the voting industry?

This week a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, The Election Center, will be in Washington DC to lobby our Congressmen….

January 15, 2006. The Election Center: The Fox Guarding the Henhouse Updated  – The Election Center Wants To “Improve” Democracy – And The Profit Margins Of Their Corporate Sponsors.

August 26, 2005 The Election Center: The Fox Guarding the Hen House

Editor’s Note: The Election Center influences the actions and decisions of state election directors across the country.  In this article, originally published on in June, 2005, Joyce McCloy takes a close look at the organization.  New photos supplied by John Gideon. How long will “The Election Center” be allowed to act as an educator, trainer and advisor of election officials? How long will it continue to give bad advice to North Carolina election officials?

Ethics 101 for NC Election Officials”:

 Learn more about how the Election Center influences our election officials and helps the bottom line of voting machine companies –

Session Law 2005-256 ,  Pilot Program for Super Precincts passed. This legislation would let voters in Chapel Hill and Carrboro cast ballots at locations of their choosing. The bill would allow a pilot program through the 2006 elections in which “super precincts” would be created, theoretically in easily accessible areas that have plenty of parking. Voters at these locations could cast votes, either in early one-stop voting or on Election Day. Supporters say the idea could increase voter turnout by making voting more convenient for commuters and others, compared to standing in lines at local precincts near their homes. Guilford County wanted to be included, but this did not happen.  This idea has been promoted by the Election Center , a non profit aiming to improve democracy while helping the bottom line of voting machine companies. Update – Good news! there were no participants in this Pilot Program for Super Precincts.

For promotional material about the Larimer system, which is reported to be working well, visit the Larimer Co.Elections website

And for analysis of some problems with the Denver implementation, you can download an pdf file of a 32-page report from Vote Trust USA 

Speaking Out Against Vote Centers Nov. 20, 2006Sometimes we are able to forestall obvious disasters. By now most everyone has heard of the election debacle in Denver, Colorado, on November 7, 2006, that resulted from the dimwitted adoption of voting centers.

Rocky Mountain News: Elections

Nov. 7,, 2006. Voters at many of the city’s new 55 voting centers have been encountering long lines,computer problems and an inadequate number of computers to check proof

VoteTrustUSA – CHAOS: VotingExtension Denied Amid Massive  CHAOS: Voting Extension Denied Amid Massive ComputerProblems in Colorado provisional ballots are now running out at some Denvervoting centers.

City asked for pollbook software; Documents refute vendor.  Dec. 1, 2006. Denver Colorado.  City auditor estimates the cost of switching to vote centers was significantly higher than if the city had remained with neighborhood polling places, which would have also avoided the massive Election Day problems.

The Denver Post – Vote centers “a total fiasco”

11/09/2006. Denver officials today will discuss problemsthat led to two- to three- hour waits at the city’s 55 vote centers, said at-large Councilman Doug Linkhart

Denver’s digital crashes marvoting –

It was launching a new network of 55 “vote centers” around the city to replace that the computer “application” was the source of the chronicproblems      

Bad Ideas For Voting Just Keep Coming by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.
The requirement for an electronic poll book at voting centers introduces a myriad of additional issues as well. Problems include the requisite connectivity …  

IFES Feature Story     Haitians Brave Large Crowds, Delays to Vote.  February 08, 2006. Problems with frustrated voters storming voting sites were restricted … these huge voting centers it does not facilitate the vote,” said Vincent De Herdt…    


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