Long lines and ballot controversies
Politics | Americans are voting early, and complications are surfacing
by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 10/15/20, 05:25 pm
Both parties have made early and mail-in voting a major part of their campaign strategies this year. Democrats beat the drum for Americans to get to the polls or get their absentee ballots in as soon as possible. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, repeatedly warned of possible fraud and election delays from millions of mailed ballots.
Whether because of or in spite of those strategies’ effects, Americans are turning out for early voting. CNBC reported that more than 10 million people have already cast their ballots, compared to fewer than 1.5 million who had voted by mid-October in 2016. More than 46 million voters requested mail-in ballots and have not submitted them yet. The process has already begun to hit snags.
In Virginia, roadside workers accidentally severed a 10-gigabit cable on Tuesday that helped keep the state’s websites running, shutting down the voter registration site for six hours on the day of the deadline. “It’s terrible because we’re sitting here and we have no idea what’s happening,” Judy Brown, Loudoun County general registrar, told The Washington Post. After a massive amount of complaints and a lawsuit, a federal judge said Wednesday the state could extend the deadline for 48 hours.
Higher voter turnout and social distancing requirements have led to long lines in many states. Members of one family in Georgia said they waited 11 hours to vote. Authorities are trying to balance containing the coronavirus with encouraging continued participation. “You’ve got plenty of areas where you can go and vote at an off-peak time so you minimize your contact with people and minimize your contact in the whole process so that everybody can stay safe,” Michael Dickerson, director of elections for Mecklenburg County, N.C., told WSOC-TV on Thursday.
Other voters have opted for mail-in balloting. But that brings its own set of problems and controversy.
In California, one of the states that allows political parties to collect ballots, the GOP placed unofficial drop boxes across Fresno, Los Angeles, and Orange counties. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, both Democrats, ordered the state Republican Party to remove the boxes by Thursday, saying they were confusing voters and hurting election integrity by claiming to be official. The state GOP said it removed the word “official” from the boxes and was complying with state law. Republican National Committee member Harmeet Dhillon said the order “is a voter suppression effort, aimed at intimidating California Republican Party officials and volunteers from gathering and delivering ballots.”
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, earlier this month ordered local authorities to provide just one official mail-in ballot dropbox per county. Democrats and voting rights activists sued. But a panel of judges from on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Abbott’s favor on Monday, noting he suspended a state law this year so that anyone can drop off a mail-in ballot before Election Day, therefore he wasn’t suppressing votes overall. “How this expansion of voting opportunities burdens anyone’s right to vote is a mystery,” Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote.
Millions of Americans are expected to head to their local polling station on Election Day. But given the volume of votes so far and the battles over counting them, final results may not come until days—or weeks—later.
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