The Stew Reporting on government and politics

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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Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a WORLD Digital news reporter. He is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Kyle resides in Purcellville, Va. Follow him on Twitter @kylezim25.

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  •  Marlene's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/16/2020 02:59 pm

    Can someone please explain the purpose and benefit of early voting?

    What if something happens to a candidate in the weeks before an election? What if someone drops out at the last minute? What if a voter learns something after voting that causes him to wish he had voted differently?

    Posted: Mon, 10/19/2020 02:05 am

    One explanation – out of many possibilities – is COVID. Here’s a more detailed analysis of one aspect affected by the virus: Most election judges seem to be older folks who are most at risk of getting sick. For the Minnesota primary in August, I was recruited as an “emergency” election judge in my small town – on the Friday before – and I’m also in an “older” at-risk group.

    What a crash course! Before, I simply went to the polls on Election Day (except two or three times in all these years when I’ve been out of state or country, so voted by absentee ballot.) More concerned with marking my ballot, I took for granted the kindly souls navigating voters through the polling place. Now I’m one of them, studying again for November 3.

    Though planning to vote in person, I’m on the fence about early voting: Working the first shift on Election Day, I can vote during a break or later in the day. However, will there be an enormous turnout that day? We are a small crew, so I don’t want to “cut in line” because I have to hurry during a break. With “social distancing,” how many people behind me will have to wait outside at the precinct building? (The county building for early voting is bigger, and it snowed last Saturday.)

  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 10/22/2020 08:57 pm

    My precinct and those close to it vote in one location, our small town's Catholic Church, and traditionally have a very heavy turnout. I have waited in long lines quite a few times--never close to 11 hours, thankfully. But this year with risk of Covid exposure, my wife and I are planning to go vote early, and will try to time it when lines are likely to be short. While we are not particularly paranoid about covid, we also try to avoid unusual risks.