New ID requirements. Unfamiliar or distant polling places. Names missing from the voter rolls. Those are just some of the challenges that could disrupt voting across the country through Election Day. While most elections have their share of glitches, experts worry conditions are ripe this year for trouble at the nation’s polling places. This is the first presidential election year without a key enforcement provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, and 14 states have enacted new registration or voting restrictions. Adding to the uncertainty is a call by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for supporters to monitor the polls for voter fraud and concerns by the federal government that hackers could try to disrupt the voting process. All this has civil rights advocates on guard. “There is going to be a lot going on in this election that we are going to have to watch out for,” said Penda Hair, a civil rights lawyer who represented the North Carolina NAACP in its bid to overturn that state’s voter ID law.
With no national standards for voting, rules vary widely across states and even counties.
Voting experts and civil rights groups are encouraging voters to do their research before heading to the polls. That includes checking to ensure they are registered and finding their voting location, as well as understanding their rights if they face any problems.
“People should not leave without casting a ballot,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law. “If you are an eligible voter, you should be able to have your vote counted no matter what anyone is saying.”
Adding to the potential for confusion are new voter ID laws in nine states as well as reduced hours for early voting and changes to polling locations in some states.