As the United States went to the polls for the first time in 50 years without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, lawyers and voter registration groups around the country reported an unusual level of irregularities and glitches at polling stations. The largest non-partisan voter protection coalition in the US received more than 12,000 calls to its hotline from people struggling to cast their ballot amid a slew of new voter-ID laws. The coalition of 150 groups led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said it has received an unusually high volume of distress calls from would-be voters to its eight call centers across the country. The top three states (in terms of the number of cries for help) were Florida – a state notorious for its long lines and historical voting interference – Georgia, and Texas. In Georgia, almost 1,500 calls had come in over the past two days and long lines were reported in Atlanta and several other urban centers. Many were from people who are among the 40,000 “disappeared” people who were registered to vote but whose details have not been transferred to voting rolls, a problem that was exacerbated on Tuesday by the secretary of state’s own voting website crashing, leaving voters in the dark about the location of their polling stations.
A steady stream of calls has also come in from Texas from people trapped by the new voter-ID law. Surprisingly, the callers included several military personnel who reported difficulties using their military ID cards at polling stations even though such identification is recognised under the new rules.
“This is not what voters in this country should be facing. This is a democracy. Every American should have the right to participate we should be making it easier not harder,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice.
Tuesday’s midterm election is the first nationwide poll to be held since the US supreme court disbanded a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had required largely southern states and parts of other states to have any changes they made to voting arrangements approved in advance by the federal government. Voter registration groups had warned that by removing the provision the high court would invite confusion and obstruction at the polls, a prediction that appears – at least to some extent – to have materialised.