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What to Anticipate This Year at Polling Places?

This year’s midterm elections are taking place against the backdrop of former President Donald Trump’s aggressive push to convince people that he will lose the 2020 presidential election.

The false assertions and conspiracy theories have generated new legislation in numerous states sponsored by the Republican Party and sown suspicion in voting equipment. They have led conservative organizations sympathetic to Trump’s claims to contest voter registration and recruit observers and poll workers.

All of this might hinder voting in numerous states, which is currently underway and will continue through November 8. Still, casting a ballot is likely to be trouble-free for the majority of voters. In some sections of the country, however, the changed voting methods and political dynamics since the previous presidential election are already having an impact.

Republican legislatures have enacted numerous new limits on voter registration and participation. Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and the dissemination of false allegations by him and his aides have infuriated his fans, who have resorted to harassment and even death threats against elected officials. In addition, local electoral offices continue to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This has resulted in unprecedented pressure on local election offices and a changing scene for some of the 217 million registered voters in the United States. During the primaries, ballot printing issues, aggressive poll observers, and malware attacks on voting equipment plagued polling locations.

Those who feel they are being harassed or prevented from exercising their right to vote to have access to assistance. Whether they vote by mail or in person, voters can anticipate the following.

Staffing and Poll Worker Shortages

Numerous election workers have thrown up the towel as a result of a relentless barrage of death threats, harassment, and false information. As the November 8 election approaches, this has left numerous offices around the country understaffed, and one in Texas completely unstaffed.

In addition to responding to a surge of demands for public information, their workload has increased since activist groups who believe the 2020 election was stolen are challenging the voting rights of thousands of voters. The majority of these disputes, according to election officials, are irrelevant, but some voters are nevertheless questioned about their eligibility.

What to Anticipate This Year at Polling Places?

The annoyances of the job — long hours, little pay, and a perceived increase in physical danger — outweigh the satisfaction of performing an essential civic role.

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During the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of elderly poll workers withdrew from work, exacerbating an already building situation. With early voting already started, an online poll worker tracker on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website suggested that more than half of the state’s counties still required volunteers as of this week.

Ballot Issues

Errors on printed ballots are not new, but this fall’s heightened election tensions will likely increase scrutiny on these recurrent administrative issues.

Earlier this year, printing problems plagued the primaries in Oregon and Pennsylvania, compelling local election officials to rerun or recount thousands of sent votes. A Democratic state member in Oregon has demanded a probe into the disaster that delayed the results of a U.S. House election in a state that has entirely used mail-in ballots for the past 23 years. The race was called after 10 days.

In several locations, issues have lingered into the general election. Democrat Secretary of State Jena Griswold appointed a supervisor to oversee the election in Pueblo County after some voters got ballots with an inaccurate state House race and without a county commissioner race.

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Signature identification and deadline criteria for absentee and mail-in ballots may have changed in their states since the last election.

Federal law mandates that provisional votes be made available to voters who claim to be registered and eligible but whose names do not appear on the official voter rolls.

Some election offices may also be experiencing supply chain issues with computer gear or ballot paper, although this was not an issue during the primaries.

Dropbox Drama

Even though Republican-led legislatures have set restrictions on the number and location of ballot drop boxes after 2020, many voters continue to utilize them.

An examination by the Associated Press found no evidence that the containers are prone to widespread fraud, vandalism, or theft, contrary to what the flawed film “2000 Mules” claimed. Nonetheless, groups of “dropbox monitors” have sprung up across the United States, ostensibly to keep an eye out for criminal activities.

This week, the Arizona secretary of state’s office submitted a voter intimidation case to the U.S. Department of Justice and the state attorney general’s office after a Maricopa County voter reported being contacted and followed while placing her ballot in a drop box.

Polling Place Conflicts

Officials will be on the lookout for newly aggressive poll observers who may attempt to enter the space of voters as they vote or poll workers as they assist voters or prepare ballots for counting.

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Poll monitors have traditionally been the eyes and ears of the two major political parties, but a new group of individuals who believe in election conspiracies has volunteered for duty. In other areas governed by the Republican Party, they have been granted greater latitude to question votes or procedures, creating an air of unpredictability as Election Day approaches.

What to Anticipate This Year at Polling Places?

There may be extra uniformed law enforcement officers at voting booths in various regions of the country, but not for traditional peacekeeping. Instead, proponents of Trump’s accusations have proposed that county sheriffs have access to voting machines and can intervene in the conduct of elections. Some have committed to doing so.

In response, voter advocacy organizations are preparing a counter-presence in certain states to assist voters at the polls.

Jen Miller, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, stated that ecumenical religious leaders trained in de-escalation techniques will be available during early voting and on Election Day “to assist bring the temperature down.”

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has also stated that it is monitoring for violations of statutes prohibiting discrimination or intimidation of voters based on race, color, national origin, religion, or language. Violence, threats of violence, or intimidation against any voter at a polling location should first be reported to 911, then to the department at 1-800-253-3931 or http://civilrights.justice.gov.

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In addition, a nonpartisan network of voting rights organizations provides help to voters around the nation on Election Day and, where applicable, during early voting. Election Protection operates the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, which connects voters in need of assistance at the polls with persons who can provide it.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Common Cause are among the groups.

Watching for Machine Tampering

Officials and security experts will also be on high alert for tampering with electronic voting machines and poll books, as there is increased concern that conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential race could incite voters or even election workers to tamper with the equipment.

In September, a Michigan election worker was charged with two offenses after a witness claimed to see him insert a USB flash drive into an electronic poll book at the conclusion of the state’s primary on August 2. During the primary election in Colorado, a similar event believed to have been caused by a voter led poll officials to remove a voting system from service.

Any such attempt to modify votes would certainly fail, but removing voting equipment from service might result in longer lines and more voter displeasure.

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