Donald Trump clinched the presidency by securing victories in two critical swing states: Wisconsin and North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump won by about 3 percentage points; in North Carolina, 4. It is, of course, impossible to know what factors contributed to Trump’s victories in these states. But it is certainly worth noting that each engaged in extensive and carefully coordinated voter suppression in the years preceding the election. In Wisconsin, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a series of “reforms” designed to suppress the votes of minorities and college students. The Legislature slashed early voting, especially in minority communities, and passed draconian new voter ID requirements that effectively disenfranchised many underprivileged black voters. One federal judge found that the Legislature had explicitly targeted certain black people on the basis of race and attempted to suppress their votes. But an appeals court pushed back against several district court rulings softening the law, leaving much of it in place for the 2016 election. As a result, many people were unable to obtain necessary identification documents and cast ballots in Wisconsin this year.
In a sign that the legal team for the Trump campaign is aggressively laying the groundwork for potential legal challenges — big and small — lawyers have gone to state court in Nevada in an early vote dispute. They are suing Joe P. Gloria, the Clark County registrar of voters, over a decision they allege he made to keep polling locations open “two hours beyond the designated closing time.” The lawsuit targets polling places in the greater Las Vegas area that have larger minority voting precincts. Dan Kulin, a spokesperson for the county, told CNN that no early voting stations extended their closing times. They did, however, process voters who were in line at closing time to allow as many people to vote as possible. In legal briefs filed Monday night, Trump lawyers are asking for an order to have the pertinent early vote ballots not to be “co-mingled or interspersed” with other ballots.
In 1977, a flood control measure on the ballot in Monterey, Calif., became what historians say was the first modern American election decided by people who voted before Election Day. It was a strange moment even for some who participated; elections had traditionally been a kind of civic gathering, on one day. But the practice caught on with voters, and it eventually spread from the West Coast to 37 states and the District of Columbia. Today, at least 43 million Americans have already voted in the presidential election. And when the ballots are tallied nationwide Tuesday evening, more than one-third of them will have come from people who voted early — a record. Voting before Election Day has become so commonplace that it is reshaping how campaigns are waged, and how Americans see the race in its final, frantic days. “The idea that one wakes up and it’s Election Day in America is actually a rather quaint idea now,” said Russ Schriefer, a Republican consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns for two decades. “It is as much as a monthlong process to draw people in. And so your advertising tactics, your messaging tactics and certainly your ground game have changed completely.”
North Carolina: Emails show how Republicans lobbied to limit voting hours in North Carolina | Reuters
When Bill McAnulty, an elections board chairman in a mostly white North Carolina county, agreed in July to open a Sunday voting site where black church members could cast ballots after services, the reaction was swift: he was labeled a traitor by his fellow Republicans. “I became a villain, quite frankly,” recalled McAnulty at a state board of elections meeting in September that had been called to resolve disputes over early voting plans. “I got accused of being a traitor and everything else by the Republican Party,” McAnulty said. Following the blowback from Republicans, McAnulty later withdrew his support for the Sunday site.
Joe Brookreson stands at the table, pensive, reading a cookbook, his wife looking over his shoulder. “I’m looking in that container?” asks Susan Brookreson. A ball of dough is rising in a bowl on the counter beside them. Joe is sharing the instructions for how to prepare wheat bread with his wife. “Oh, there are two rises,” Joe realizes. This means he may not be able to return home after casting his vote for president – his early vote, that is – in time to supervise the baking. “Doggone it.” Joe had planned to drive 15 minutes to Martinsburg, West Virginia, for early voting and then return home to bake the bread, but the extra leavening time is complicating his schedule. Susan reassures him: “Go. Your voting is more important.” November 8 is more than a week away, but around the United States, many people like Joe Brookreson are running to the polls to vote. Voting started as early as September 23 in some places, and is now permitted in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Each state establishes its own procedures and dates.
In the first week of early voting in North Carolina this month, the number of people who showed up to cast in-person ballots in Guilford County fell off a cliff. Voters cast 52,562 fewer ballots, a decrease of 87 percent from the same weeklong period four years earlier, according to an analysis by Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. The difference? In 2012, the county — where more than a third of the 517,000 residents are African-American and which gave President Obama 58 percent of the vote in 2012 — had 16 locations open for the first stretch of in-person early voting. This year, the Republican-controlled election board opened only one polling site for the first week of early voting — and the site was open two fewer days that first week. Civil rights advocates say what happened in Guilford County, the home of Greensboro, is part of a nationwide proliferation of largely Republican-led efforts, large and small, that discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos, and others at the ballot box. Measures that make voting more difficult — new voter ID laws; rules that make it harder to register; and cuts in the number and hours of polling places — have popped up throughout the country, including in some areas with a history of disenfranchisement.
Ohio: Hundreds march to Board of Elections to cast ballots, protest dearth of early-voting locations | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Several hundred voters marched to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on Sunday to cast ballots and protest the limited number of in-house early voting locations in Ohio. The marchers departed at 2:30 p.m. from the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and traveled a half-mile to the Board of Elections headquarters on Euclid Avenue. Greater Cleveland Congregations and the Amalgamated Transit Union organized the event to encourage Cuyahoga County residents to vote early before the general election on Nov. 8.
This much is clear after two days of early voting in Texas: Legal wrangling over the state’s voter identification law is stirring confusion at the polls. Amid Texans’ mad dash to polling places this week, the front end of 12 days of voting before Election Day, civil rights groups and some voters are questioning how some county election officials are portraying the state’s voter identification requirements, which a federal judge softened in August. Among the complaints in pockets of Texas: years-old posters inaccurately describing the rules — more than a dozen instances in Bexar County — and poll workers who were reluctant to tell voters that some could cast ballots without photo identification. Though it’s not clear that anyone walked away from the polls because of misinformation or partial information, civil rights advocates called the sporadic reports troubling.
U.S. voting rights advocates scored a string of courtroom victories this year that rolled back some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws. Now they face another challenge: making sure those rulings are not undermined by officials who oversee elections at the local level. With early voting already under way ahead of the Nov. 8 election, local officials in several states are trying to enforce restrictions that have been suspended or struck down in court, civil rights advocates say. In some cases, the action appears to be the result of bureaucratic confusion. In other cases, they appear to be actively resisting the law. “There are still too many places where voting is going to be difficult and confusing, not easy and straightforward,” said Leah Aden, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The foot-dragging by local officials adds another element of uncertainty to what already promises to be a volatile election.
As residents in many states begin voting, a new round of legal skirmishes is emerging over rules for casting ballots, a potential harbinger of disputes to come. In Texas, voting-rights advocates have urged state officials to address reports that several counties opened the state’s early voting period on Oct. 24 with incorrect signs indicating that voters must show photo identification to cast a ballot. A court order issued in August required the state to make exceptions for people who couldn’t reasonably obtain one of the types of ID the state required. Some locations have acknowledged making initial errors. “There’s no excuse for that, and I own up to it,” said elections administrator Jacquelyn Callanen in Bexar County, home to the city of San Antonio.