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What Election Officials, Lawyers Are More Concerned Voters Go To The Polls

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As millions of U.S. voters head to the polls, elections officials and voting rights advocates have a laundry list of concerns.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 71 million ballots have already been cast in this year’s election, already exceeding more than half the ballots cast in 2016.

But with just days to go until Election Day, fears are rising that millions of voters could be disenfranchised.

Among the concerns are that misinformation, voter intimidation or newly imposed rigid rules about mail-in voting could undermine the democratic process.

“This year, the election looks a little different and it’s important for people to get that trusted source information and make a plan to vote.”

Carolyn DeWitt, the president of Rock the Vote, said the issue is particularly alarming “as we know that there are both domestic and foreign actors who are running disinformation campaigns targeted at voters of colour and young voters.”

She added: “We have a not only a lack of leadership in our government, but we have we have individuals at the top levels of government, including our president, who are spreading disinformation and undermining the confidence and integrity of our elections.”

DeWitt added that voters need to turn to organizations like Rock the Vote that focus on providing “relevant, vetted information.”

Jasmine Burney-Clark, who founded the Equal Ground Education Fund to educate and and build Black political power in Florida, told Newsweek that the “level of disinformation” circulating in the state is also her biggest concern.

People vote at a voting center set up in a parking garage at Beverly Hills City Hall, October 27, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California.
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

A number of paramilitary group members have been charged over a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and concerns about voter intimidation in the state prompted Michigan’s top election official, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, to recently issue a directive to state elections clerks that firearms cannot be openly carried within 100 feet of polling places on November 3—an order that was met with resistance by some law enforcement officers and ruled against by a judge this week.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that federal and state law enforcement officials have begun expanded preparations for the possibility of widespread unrest at the polls on Election Day.

DeWitt advised any voters who feel threatened or unsafe to call 911 or the state police if they feel local law enforcement is not going to provide a sufficient response. She also urged them to call the Election Protection hotline.

“We want to make sure that no one is intimidated from voting because of any individuals or organizations at the polls, or given the wrong information when they show up,” Jerez added.

“Polling places are going to look a little different this year”

Voting on Election Day will, of course, be different in 2020.

“It’s important for people to know that the polling places are going to look a little different this year with social distancing with PPE,” Hovland said.

“I expect that there will be very, very long lines and that is extremely concerning,” DeWitt said. “Not everyone can wait in line for an hour, for four hours, for eight hours, as we expect may be the case on Election Day.”

Hovland noted that the record number of people who have already cast their ballots will help limit congestion on November 3.

He urged anyone planning to vote early to go at off-peak hours to further ease the buren. “There’s early voting happening in a lot of the country right now, being able to go in the middle of the week, mid- morning, or the early afternoon, those are usually off peak hours….a great time to vote.”

Hovland also noted that due to the sheer numbers involved, there are likely to be mishaps in the days leading up to and including Election Day.

“First and foremost, every ballot, every vote matters and should be counted,” he said. “Frankly, we’re going to probably have more than 150 million Americans vote in this presidential election. When you’re on that kind of scale, we’re going to have a million poll workers be involved, 150 million voters, you have election workers in nearly 9,000 jurisdictions around the country.

“And when you have that kind of volume, people make mistakes and the important thing is that we’re able to try to correct those mistakes and that people’s votes are ultimately counted.”

DeWitt says many poll workers working during this election are new and unfamiliar with how to resolve issues.

“In addition to the barriers and realities the coronavirus has caused, issues like poll worker shortages, which then have led to the closure of poll sites, we have seen a lot of poll workers who are new are may not have all the answers, and so are turning away voters who may not know all of their rights,” she said.

“While election officials and poll workers have the best intentions, the reality is that there will almost certainly be glitches in the system. For instance, poll lists might be inaccurate.”

Voters need to make sure they demand a provisional ballot if their eligibility to vote is questioned, she added.

Despite the concerns, Hovland said he is confident that election officials are doing a “fantastic job” amid “unprecedented challenges” presented by the pandemic. “I’m confident that the will of the voters will be reflected,” he said.

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