During today’s first wave of elections in the United States, voters will be heading to the polls to observe the effect of new Republican restrictions on accessibility to the ballot box.
It is a great opportunity for election officials to correct some of the misinformation about voting security and restore faith in democracy to those who may still have doubts about the presidential election last year.
Virginia and New Jersey will receive the most attention, as they are where voters cast ballots for governors and other statewide elections. Voters in the rest of the country were casting ballots for a wide range of local races. These included the mayor and city council, school board, and bond measures. In Maine, New York, and Texas, voters were looking at ballot initiatives for various topics.
As a result of the pandemic, some voters will experience a different voting experience this year than last year when officials made changes to ease crowds at polling places in response to the pandemic. These changes were made permanent in some states, while others rolled them back.
Virginia lawmakers approved the permanent expansion of absentee voting by removing the need for an excuse. Officials have been trying to reach voters who submitted absentee ballots without witnesses, even though the requirement for witness signatures on absentee ballots was removed last year. These voters have until Friday to resolve the problem, or their ballots won’t be counted.
As a result of Republican states being in control, a few states had much stricter voting laws than other states. The new ID requirements for mail ballots have been enacted in Florida and Georgia as examples.
Republicans claim that their changes are necessary to increase security and confidence in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. They continued to act as ex-President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election had been stolen, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.
In response to these claims, both judges and election officials from both parties have rejected them. The attorney general for President Trump also said that federal law enforcement had not seen fraud on a scale that would have affected the outcome in a negative way.
Voting rights groups announced that hotlines would help voters with questions, problems, or concerns at the polls or with their mail ballots. Damon Hewitt’s group, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is leading the effort. Hewitt stated that Tuesday was an important test.
Hewitt stated that it was a test for voters to complete the task of figuring out these restrictions and rules. “And, frankly, it’s also an assessment of democracy: How strong is it, and can we tolerate these attempts to make it more difficult for voters to vote?”
Moreover, Tuesday will be an opportunity for election officials as well as voters to gain a better understanding of the system and to counter misinformation concerning the 2020 presidential election. Election officials, including state and local election officials, have been harassed and threatened with death as a result of false claims.