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The Problems We Expect to See Today

It’s Election Day — the day we’ve all been waiting for. Electionland is monitoring problems all day and we already know some things will go wrong. Here’s a run down of what we’re expecting.

If you encounter these issues — or any other issues — please DM us on Twitter or text ELECTIONLAND to 69866 and tell us about it.

Freed from federal oversight, many southern states have closed polling spots, and we’re expecting long lines

This is the first presidential election since the Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Since then, multiple, predominently southern states have closed polling places in droves.

According to a study by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights, states released from Section 5 of the Voting Rights act have almost 900 fewer polling places than they did in 2012.

Fewer polling places have already led to long lines, and in some cases lower minority turnout. The Republican Party of North Carolina essentially cheered lower black turnout in the state, saying it was a result of the “crumbling” Obama coalition. “African American early voting is down 8.5% from this time in 2012,” it read. “Caucasian voters early voting is up 22.5% from this time in 2012.”

It may well be that enthusiasm for this election is down among African American voters, but it is also certainly true that slashing the number of polling places disproportionately affects minority voters.

Voter ID issues in Texas

We’re expecting continued problems with the voter ID law in Texas. As our partner the Texas Tribune has reported, poll workers across the state have been attempting to apply an old, stricter version of Texas’ voter ID law.

In July, a federal appeals court struck down key provisions of the law after concluded that it would disproportionately affect minorities. Voters in the state can now fill out an affidavit swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining an ID. Still, voters have told Electionland, poll workers have been demanding ID and signs with outdated instructions have been spotted. Texas has been quick to address the issues found during early voting, but we’re still expecting more Election Day issues.

Issues with provisional balloting

As we’ve reported before, poll workers frequently do not give provisional ballots when they should. The laws for provisional ballots vary widely by state, but the Help America Vote Act of 2002 required nearly all states offer them. In states with voter ID laws, for example, voters can cast provisional ballots if they do not have the appropriate ID and then can present one at a designated location later. In other states, provisional voting is used as a fail-safe against already apparent problems. A judge in New York recently ruled that those who believe they are registered but do not appear on the rolls because of the high-profile purging of the voter rolls before the primaries can cast a provisional ballot. In most states, voters who believe they are registered but do not appear in the roll books for any number of reasons can request a provisional ballot. But in some states, if you vote in the wrong precinct — even using a provisional ballot — your vote will get tossed.

Issues with absentee voting

Across the country we’ve been receiving reports that folks who requested absentee ballots never got them, or got them too late to return them. One voter who DMed us from Paris told us she had to overnight her ballot back to Brooklyn, which wasn't cheap.

Fears of voter intimidation keeping people from the polls

We’ve had a lot of reports of people worried about going to the polls because of threats of voter intimidation. While the fears are real — and we certainly expect to see one-off issues of attempts at intimidating voters (like the Trump supporters will bull horns in West Palm Beach) — there is no evidence to suggest that an organized campaign to intimidate voters is underway. We have not seen evidence of a widespread, organized campaign. The day is early, and anything could happen, but the vast majority of voters should report to the polls fear free.

We’ll be reporting on these problems and anything else you report to us. We’ve gotten dozens of DMs this morning, and hundreds are texting into our service. Thanks in advance for your help sorting these issues out.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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