Inside ‘Electionland’: Tracking Voting Problems in Real Time
On Tuesday, as voters go to the polls, ProPublica will be trying something that's never been done before. Along with a number of partners, and hundreds of reporters from newsrooms across the country, we will be tracking and covering voting problems nationwide in real time.
The integrity of the voting process has been a particularly hot-button issue during this election campaign. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made allegations, without evidence, of widespread fraud and a “rigged” election. Democrats have argued that new voting laws passed by some states could unfairly restrict access to the polls.
To recap problems we’ve already seen in early voting, and forecast what we expect on Election Day, our guests this week are reporters Jessica Huseman, of ProPublica, and Rachel Glickhouse, from our partner Univision.
Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
People are already voting. What problems, if any, have there been?
Huseman: We're already seeing a couple of instances of pretty explicit voter intimidation even if it doesn't technically violate the law of local counties. For example in West Palm Beach, there were a few dozen Trump supporters standing in front of an early polling location and shouting at drivers and voters with bullhorns and saying pretty profane things and pretty offensive things to voters…They were outside of the electioneering line that's required by Florida law and the county that they happened to be in didn't have, for whatever reason, any laws against using amplification. They were able to do what they were doing legally, but they were still being very disruptive. …Our coverage of that issue…did encourage the sheriff's department to at least have officers present outside of that polling location, which seems to have calmed things down a little bit.
Rachel, at Univision, one of your areas of focus is obviously Spanish-speaking voters. What problems have we seen so far on that front, if any?
Glickhouse: Long lines tend to affect minority voters more than white voters. In the 2012 election, on average black and Latino voters waited longer than white voters. We're seeing especially long lines this year…Another thing is language access. For voters who only speak Spanish, there are some places where they simply cannot get assistance understanding the ballot even though in the Voting Rights Act, there are certain parts of the country where people should be able to get access to Spanish language help.
Tell me a bit about how Election Day is going to work for Electionland. Obviously a lot of the tips are going to be coming in from social media. How are you guys going to be vetting what's real?
Huseman: Our students are really excellently trained to figure what's real and what's not real. If a student finds a tweet that says, "I was just harassed in front of a polling station and I'm in Tampa, Florida. Here's a picture of the guy that harassed me," they have been trained to do reverse image searches on those photos to make sure that the photos are real, that the photos were not previously published by somebody else. They are going to be using Google Maps to make sure that the person is where they say that they are and a background of the photo looks like about what that area should look like. They're going to make sure that that person isn't a bot which is very common on Twitter…They are going to make sure that that person is at the polling location that they say that they're at. They're probably going to correspond with that person to see what happened, to see if the issue was resolved. Then once they do that, they're going to kick it up to some professional reporters that we'll have with us in the CUNY newsroom that are going to be able to further vet those tweets.