Americans head to the polls on Tuesday for an election that has state and local officials across the country worried as they brace for potential problems at the polls, contentious legal battles over ballots and the misinformation about the vote itself.
More than 41 million pre-election ballots have been cast in 47 states, and officials also expect strong turnout on Election Day for congressional, state and gubernatorial contests that will determine control of Congress and state governments. state legislative chambers.
The vast majority of the tens of millions of people who will vote on Tuesday will do so without issue, in an election where early voting exceeded 2018 levels. And the vast majority of voting issues will be decidedly minor and small-scale, like long queues or bad weather.
At the same time, election officials are grappling with new pressure from the conspiratorial right. Led by former President Donald Trump, a growing number of Republican politicians have attacked the legitimacy of the vote and repeated false claims that the 2020 election was stolen – and have planned similar attacks for those midterms.
State and local officials and suffrage advocates have sounded the alarm that political attacks, including a marked increase in threats of violence against poll workers, have sparked an exodus of local election officials to voting charge.
Early voting provided insight into potential issues, big and small, that could arise on Election Day. In Arizona, armed poll watchers have been charged with conspiracy to intimidate voters, and in Pennsylvania, a legal battle is underway over technical errors invalidating mail-in ballots.
Legal efforts to challenge these issues have also expanded. In total, there have been about 120 voting-related court cases filed as of Nov. 3, compared to 68 before Election Day in 2020. More than half of the cases sought to restrict access to the ballot, according to the Democracy Docket, a liberal suffrage and media platform that tracks election disputes.
In Pennsylvania, some counties are urging voters to correct mail-in ballots with missing or incorrect dates that the state Supreme Court has ordered overturned, as a federal legal challenge still looms. In Michigan, meanwhile, a judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the GOP secretary of state nominee seeking to throw out mail-in ballots in heavily Democratic Detroit.
Cobb County, Georgia, on Monday extended the deadline for delivering about 1,000 mail-in ballots to Nov. 14, after ballots were not mailed in until days before the election day due to procedural errors in the electoral office.
Beyond the legal battles, election officials anticipate possible clashes with Holocaust deniers who harassed and threatened officials in the 2020 election and braced for aggressive scrutiny of the upcoming midterm contest.
In North Carolina, about 15 incidents of alleged bullying have been reported to the state Board of Elections since early in-person voting began.
The incidents included people outside a county election board filming video of an election worker’s license plate and a situation where an election worker was followed from the voting site to the election office and then followed in his neighborhood.
In Arizona, the Secretary of State’s office sent 18 referrals to law enforcement regarding drop box bullying, including a threatening message to a government employee and several voters reporting being filmed at drop boxes. filing in Maricopa County last week. A federal judge earlier this month imposed new restrictions on a right-wing group in the state following complaints about aggressive ballot box patrols in the state, including preventing members from openly carrying weapons fire or wear bulletproof vests.
Federal officials have warned that domestic violent extremists pose an increased threat to the 2022 midterm elections.
As votes roll in and begin to be processed and counted on Tuesday, election officials are wary of conspiracy theories that often spread like wildfire but are downright false.
Because laws in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan prevent early processing of mail-in ballots, those states could take several days before all votes are counted. In Pennsylvania, where the Senate race could determine which party controls the chamber, a ‘red mirage’ is expected because Election Day votes, which are expected to include more Republicans, are likely to be tabulated ahead of ballots. by mail, which expects more Democrats to use.
The reverse might be true in Arizona, where mail-in ballots are processed as soon as they are received, meaning those ballots will be counted first after the polls close.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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