Policy Summary: With the 2020 United States election only days away a number of states have already started the process of voting. Absentee ballots have been filled out and mailed back and early voting periods have seen a large turnout of voters in anticipation of the November 3, 2020 election. With a little more than a week until Election Day a number of recent incidents illustrate the difficulties that some voters are having in casting their ballot.

In some states, the wait in line to vote has been reported to be two, three or four hours. On October 25, 2020 Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) reported that she waited two hours in line to vote in her precinct in the Bronx, New York. And the Washington Post reported that lines in New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee and other locales were having wait times that reached two hours causing some voters who didn’t vote to leave and come back the next day to try again.

In Lucas County, Ohio, the Board of Elections has acknowledged that there has been a delay in counting returned absentee ballots because of a shortage of poll workers. Fear of COVID-19 had caused fewer volunteers than in years past but it remains to be seen if this shortage will translate to problems to in – person voting. Other regions have also reported a shortage of poll workers which prompted a number of non – profit groups and projects to try and fill in the void this week.

And finally, a number of voters in the New York area reported receiving harassing robocalls that were intended to intimidate them from voting. The robocalls stated that if the voter returned their ballot that the info would be used to track down old arrest warrants, be given to credit card companies to collect outstanding debts and be used by the CDC to administer mandatory vaccines. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law finally stepped in and filed a temporary restraining order to stop the false robocalls under an old anti-Klan statute. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis: While there are any number of issues or circumstances that can prevent a voter from casting his or her ballot, these three incidents help to illustrate that many of the problems and barriers are systemic but also that there are a number of good non – profit groups who are willing to do what needs to be done to fix the flaws.

Waiting in line to vote in – person can often cause a person to endure a long period of hours waiting in line but there are options a voter can use to avoid this. A voter does not have to wait to vote on Election Day but can instead utilize early voting periods which can help a voter better manage their time. A voter can also utilize the option of mail ballots which can be dropped off in person, in an officially sanctioned drop box or with the U.S. Postal Service. Waiting in line to vote might seem to be a one time situation to be tolerated because of COVID-19 but the Brennan Center for Justice has been studying the issue of long wait times in line to vote and offers policy suggestions to help manage this issue in the future.

In some areas, the shortage of poll workers is attributed to a rare pandemic that has kept usual election volunteers at home this year. But citizens were alerted to the news of this potential problem and efforts were mobilized by a number of non – profit groups to ensure that polling places had enough volunteers to ensure a safe and fair election. Power the Polls is a first of its kind initiative that was created to try and help recruit 250,000 Americans to sign up to staff a polling booth location. The ability to count and process ballots and staff locations should not run into some of the delays being reported due to the help that is available out there.

And finally, there are a number of right wing groups who are intent on following President Trump’s lead to sow chaos and division at the polls in the coming days. The situation with the recent robocalls in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio were coordinated by operatives Jacob Wohl of California and Jack Burkman of Virginia. Both men have a history of making statements about their intent to disrupt the 2020 election and harm the chances of many Democratic candidates. While this particular scam was discovered it is very likely that there are many other operations out there that are still trying to intimidate voters from casting their ballots and who may continue to try on Election Day. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was quick to file a temporary restraining order  for this one scam. That might not be the case with other voter suppression tactics which reinforces the call to be vigilant as Election Day nears and to use any and all resources (governmental, non – profit groups) to combat what a voter may likely see out there heading into next week.

Engagement Resources:

Brennan Center for Justice – “Waiting to Vote” report on racial disparities in Election Day experiences.

Power the Polls – non – profit group’s website on their efforts to recruit polling booth workers and volunteers.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

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