Media Wrap-Up: How Voters Fared With New Restrictions

In many states, voters struggled with the new restrictions in this year's midterm election.

November 7, 2014
Media Voting Roundup

States across the country pushed a wave of new voting restrictions over the last four years. On Tuesday, 21 states had laws cutting back on voting — in 14 states, they were in effect for the first time in a federal election.

Before Election Day, the Brennan Center showcased several voters affected by Texas’s new strict photo ID requirement. Media reports indicate similar stories played out across the country on Tuesday, with voter ID and voter registration problems the most prevalent.

Here’s a rundown of key media stories showing voters struggling with new restrictions: 

  • As expected, Texas’s strict new photo ID requirement caused several problems on Election Day. MSNBC profiled 16 voters who struggled with the new law: “Lindsay Gonzales, 36, has an out-of-state driver’s license, which isn’t accepted under the ID law. Despite trying for months, she has been unable to navigate an astonishing bureaucratic thicket in time to get a Texas license she can use to vote. ‘I’m still a little bit in shock,’ said Gonzales, who is white, well-educated, and politically engaged. ‘Because of all those barriers, the side effect is that I don’t get to participate in the democratic process. That’s something I care deeply about and I’m not going to be able to do it.’
     
  • The Huffington Post also talked to Texas voters: “Christina Sanders, state director at the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, told HuffPost that her group saw a ‘concerning’ number of students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college in Prairie View, Texas, turned away because the only identification they had were student IDs or out-of-state driver’s licenses, both of which are not accepted under Texas’s new law.” Read more from ThinkProgress.
     
  • In North Carolina, there were problems with a new out-of-precinct voting ban. ThinkProgress spoke to Warren Coleman when he tried to vote during a break from work. “But his usual polling place, a neighborhood library, wasn’t open. Coleman was one of dozens of confused voters who showed up at Beatties Ford Road Regional Library. The library was a popular site for early voting site last week, but the state board of elections decided to shut it down for Tuesday. Several elderly and disabled voters had shown up there, only to be told that it was not a polling place. Coleman then tried a nearby elementary school, only to be told that he still wasn’t at the right place.”
     
  • Another ThinkProgress report from North Carolina: “At two polling places south of the city center, voters are turning up in steady numbers throughout the morning. But many of them aren’t casting ballots: they are being turned away because they aren’t at their correct precinct. Rhonda Little, who has been outside Fuller GT Elementary School all morning, said one woman she spoke with had visited eight different polling places before finally ending up at the correct one.” Art Lieberman, a voter protection volunteer, guessed that 8 out of 10 voters were at the wrong precinct. “For early voting, people could vote anywhere,” Lieberman said. “People would come here for early voting two years ago, and so this year people come here on the day and they think they’re allowed to vote here.
     
  • In Georgia, in an ongoing dispute, it was unclear whether 40,000 new voters had been properly registered. “Making the problem worse, the secretary of state’s website was not working for much of the morning, leaving voters unable to access information about their registration status and polling place,” reported MSNBC.
     
  • And some Georgia voters who thought they were registered didn’t appear on the rolls. Diamond Walton, 18, received her voter registration card in October, but wasn’t on the poll list when she showed up on Tuesday. She was told to vote a provisional ballot. “Instead, Ms. Walton called a lawyer from the New Georgia Project who, after numerous calls to officials, found her name on a ‘supplemental’ list,” wrote The New York Times. “With the lawyer’s help, she finally could cast her ballot. ‘It was pretty discouraging,’ she said.” These mishaps led to long lines at some polling locations, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
     
  • Yesterday was the first election under Virginia’s new strict photo ID law. Hope Amezquita of the ACLU of Virginia said “there were inconsistencies in how poll workers implemented” the requirement, reported The National Law Journal. “Amezquita said her team fielded reports from two counties about voters showing up without identification who weren’t provided with provisional ballots, which should have happened. ‘There are people out there who did not vote and should have been offered the opportunity,’ Amezquita said. ‘If it’s happening and we’re hearing about it, it’s probably happening elsewhere and we’re not hearing about it.’”
     
  • Another Virginia poll monitor “reported situations in which Virginia voters were asked to provide supplemental identification when they weren’t legally required to do so. She said her team was in touch with state officials to make sure they were giving poll workers proper instructions,” according to The National Law Journal.

These are just a few anecdotes from Election Day. As Wendy Weiser told The New York Times, “the problems of disenfranchisement don’t show up in a visible way. It’s people who don’t show up, or someone’s who’s turned away.”

The Brennan Center will continue to monitor voting developments as data rolls in over the next several weeks.

(Photo: AP)