Absent VRA Protections, Voters Report Long Lines, Intimidation in Critical Swing States
'This election may be the most chaotic election … in the last 50 years.'
In the first presidential election since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, voters in many crucial swing states are encountering fewer polling places, longer lines, and in some cases even reporting intimidation.
"There is tremendous disruption at the polls today," Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told USA Today on Tuesday. "This election may be the most chaotic election … in the last 50 years."
"If you can't afford to stand in a long line, if you can't afford daycare, that's basically a poll tax. It's just not fair."
Maricopa County, Arizona
Voters in Arizona, some of whom suffered through the state's chaotic Democratic primary, are already requesting that the state extend voting hours after encountering hours-long lines at polling stations.
Today, Maricopa County will have the exact same number of polling places the county offered in 2012 — 724 — despite having added more than 90,000 more voters to the rolls. Many of those precincts' polling places are located in the same building, meaning there are only 640 separate locations. Long lines ensued Tuesday morning, and are expected again when residents get off work in the evening.
Adrian Fontes, who is running to replace [...] the elections administrator for Maricopa County, told ThinkProgress that lines can be a major barrier for low-income voters.
"Let's say you're going to go vote on Tuesday, and you might work two jobs, or you have kids you have to get ready for school," he said. "If you can't afford to stand in a long line, if you can't afford daycare, that's basically a poll tax. It's just not fair."
"This is an election cycle that's just been marked by evidence of the resurgence of voting discrimination."
Lawyers' Committee for
Civil Rights Under Law
Intimidation at the polls has also been reported in several states. USA Today wrote:
A coalition of more than 100 civil rights and voting rights groups reported that more than half of the complaints received in the morning about voter intimidation or harassment came from Pennsylvania. Those included voters being asked to provide specific forms of identification that are not required and Hispanic voters finding no Spanish speakers to assist them.
The Washington Post said that multiple reports of intimidation have emerged from the swing state of Florida:
"In Florida we continue to receive a substantial amount of complaints about voter intimidation," said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the group running an independent effort to field voter complaints and questions.
Clarke said her group received reports from Miami-Dade County of "yelling, people using megaphones aggressively." In Jacksonville, in the northeast corner of the state, Clarke said, “an unauthorized individual was found inside [a] polling place.”
This person was at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, a polling precinct in what Clarke described as a part of Jacksonville with predominantly black residents.
"He was asked to leave and refused," she said. "Through our intervention and calls, that individual has been removed. Unauthorized individuals have no place in the polls."
"[G]o to the polls, stand at the polls, stay at the polls, vote at the polls. Do not let anything turn you around. Remember our history and remember what our people did to get us the right to the polls."
—Rev. Dr. William J. Barber
Moreover, in North Carolina—where voting restrictions were found in July to have targeted Democratic African-American voters "with almost surgical precision"—the state GOP appeared to brag in a Sunday memo about reduced early voting among black voters compared with 2012.
On Tuesday, there were problems reported across the key swing state, including machine malfunctions that forced the Durham County Board of Elections to vote unanimously to extend voting in the county by 90 minutes.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William J. Barber urged citizens to "go to the polls, stand at the polls, stay at the polls, vote at the polls. Do not let anything turn you around. Remember our history and remember what our people did to get us the right to the polls."
"This is an election cycle that's just been marked by evidence of the resurgence of voting discrimination," Clarke told USA Today. "This is a moment when we're seeing first-hand the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling which gutted the Voting Rights Act. And what looms over all of this is the fact that we don’t have the Justice Department's federal observers on the ground in the same way that we had in prior presidential election cycles."
Indeed, because of the 2013 ruling, fewer Department of Justice election observers are being stationed at polling places, as Common Dreams reported.
Throughout the day, rights activists have praised voters who have endured long lines in order to cast a vote:
While discouraged by unnecessarily long lines due to voter suppression, we are GREATLY encouraged by our voter determination!@NAACP pic.twitter.com/OZLY0aYey1
— Cornell Wm. Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) November 8, 2016
They've also urged voters nationwide to continue to report any irregularities, intimidation, and unusually long lines.