Two weeks from Election Day, a number of battleground states are still fighting over voting laws and whether voters have been adequately informed about an array of changing and sometimes complex rules. An unprecedented number of states have put stricter election laws in place since the last presidential race. And in several cases, those laws were overturned by the courts or are still caught up in litigation, creating the potential for widespread confusion. In some states, such as North Carolina, the rules in place during the primary races have changed for the general election. A federal court in Texas has ordered the state to reissue voter education materials that were misleading to residents. And in the Texas county that includes Fort Worth, voting rights advocates pointed to an email from Republican officials warning election workers in “Democrat-controlled” polling locations “to make sure OUR VOTER ID LAW IS FOLLOWED.” The note did not explain that polling places are supposed to allow people without the correct identification to cast a ballot if they show other documents, following a federal appeals court’s ruling that the Texas voter-ID law discriminates against minority voters.
The changing election rules add another volatile element to a presidential campaign season already marked by an unusual level of conflict between the candidates. Polls show a tightening race in a number of states that have usually gone to the GOP in recent presidential races. And faced with sinking numbers, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has claimed that the vote will be “rigged” and encouraged supporters to monitor the polling sites for fraud.
In Wisconsin, a years-long fight over the state’s new photo-ID law ended with courts ordering the Division of Motor Vehicles to make it easier for residents to get a photo identification to vote. But media reports suggested DMV locations were not following the court’s direction, and a federal judge ordered an investigation and weekly progress reports on education and retraining efforts up until the election.
And in North Carolina, advocates say voters remain confused as to whether they need to bring photo IDs after a federal appeals court struck down the state’s voting law, considered among the most controversial in the country. The law would have cut a week of early voting and required voters to show certain kinds of photo IDs, but the court called it “surgical racism.” Advocates say that the state’s efforts to curtail early voting are still in effect in some counties that have a particularly high proportion of African American voters.