Tuesday was supposed to serve as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the 2020 election. Instead, it came across more as the dryest of runs that seemed to strengthen concerns over how to remove obstacles that prevent certain Americans from casting their ballots in a timely fashion, or at all.
That’s because there was a steady stream of reports about various forms of voter suppression flowing across the country on this year’s Election Day despite advocates’ best efforts to prevent it.
Among those reports were the multiple calls for Election Day to be declared a holiday to make it easier for people to vote.
Activists have argued that anything less constitutes a form of voter suppression in itself and disproportionately affects working-class voters who many times have schedules that are not conducive to voting hours. That seemed to be true in Kentucky and some other states where polling places were scheduled to close at 6 p.m., a factor also labeled voter suppression and criticized for possibly not allowing people of a certain socio-economic class the proper amount of time they may need to vote.
Thirty states were going to the polls on Tuesday, including five special elections: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina (dozens and dozens of elections), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
The following are just some of the examples of voter suppression claims on social media from citizens who were simply looking to do their civic duties and participate in the Democratic process.
At least one voter was claiming her ballot was being suppressed in California over what appeared to be bureaucratic red tape. The voter took to Twitter to voice her frustration and used the hashtag “#VoterSuppression.”
In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday morning that board of elections officials were preparing “to erase 313,243 registrations” and advocates said they were “concerned that legitimate voters will be swept up in the purge.” The state was also using voters as guinea pigs to test new machines ahead of next year’s elections. But, of course, if the new machines don’t work the way they’re supposed to, then the votes risk not being counted, which paves the way for accusations of voter suppression. (Last year’s midterm elections were marred by broken and inoperable voting machines in Georgia, an allegedly intentional act by the state’s chief election official who coincidentally went on to win the election and beat Stacey Abrams, who would have been the nation’s first Black woman governor.)
Georgia is also the place where elections officials in the city of Jonesboro recently proposed moving a polling place to a police station. Civil rights groups countered by saying that doing so “would suppress turnout of the city’s voters of color and voters who have experienced negative interactions with law enforcement who would be dissuaded them from casting their ballots.” Jonesboro is more than 50 percent Black, according to statistics.
In Indiana, tweets surfaced about voters’ inability to cast ballots for one party, or “voting straight ticket.” It was described as confusing with at least one person warning other voters to beware of the example of how “voter suppression is more than just gerrymandering.”
If those above examples weren’t enough, a crucial part of North Carolina’s Board of Elections website was reportedly not working Tuesday morning in a coincidentally timed glitch that could have prevented some people from not knowing where their polling places are.
One city in Pennsylvania took it a step further and supplied voters with machines that didn’t even work. One polling place in Lancaster didn’t have machines that worked for the first two-and-a-half hours of its opening at 7 a.m.
Those machines were new, like the ones in Georgia, underscoring the concern in the Peach State. Lancaster County’s chief registrar placed the blame on voters for not getting used to what Lancaster Online called “the new, less-forgiving machines.” But either way, a not insignificant “30% of the 93 precincts in St. Joseph County were impacted by issues with the touch screens used at polling locations,” the local ABC affiliate reported.
There was more confusion in Texas, where Party affiliation was apparently no longer listed on ballots, lending further credence to the worries in Indiana about not being able to vote straight ticket.
There were also concerns in the Lone Star State over the location of polling places. One tweet claimed that mobile polling places were removed “from college campuses & poor areas” while “plenty” are “located within evangelical churches.”
And to add insult to injury, there was a report that voters were “turned away” in “predominately minority communities” over delayed openings at sites in Harris County.
But still, Virginia seemed to take the voter suppression cake after it was announced that one voting precinct in the state’s capital had inexplicably run out of ballots just two hours after it opened at 6 a.m., the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Elsewhere in the commonwealth, two counties in northern Virginia had some serious ballot issues that could end up penalizing voters and invalidating their votes in Prince William and Stafford counties. “Several hundred ballots were misprinted Tuesday morning at three voting locations” in Prince William County and some voters “got the wrong ballots” in locations in Stafford County, according to a report from WTOP.
And in Washington state, at least one drop box for ballots was moved without proper notice to voters, according to one tweet accusing Pierce County of inconveniencing “100s of working ppl” who may have to “walk an extra 25 mins” to cast their ballots. That very real concern echoed those who want Election Day to be declared a holiday to afford regular citizens with the proper amount of time needed to vote.
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