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Voting Issues to Watch on Election Day 2016

Voter intimidation efforts, machine breakdowns, long lines, and confusion over new requirements — here’s a breakdown of Brennan Center research for Election Day.

November 4, 2016

Brennan Center experts are available to comment on key issues to watch on November 8, including:

Voter Intimidation: Donald Trump has repeatedly told his supporters to “watch” the polls in “certain areas” for supposed fraud. Political operatives are organizing efforts to conduct so-called “exit polls” in multiple cities. A federal judge is hearing arguments today in a suit from the Democratic Party alleging the GOP poll monitoring efforts violate a decades-old court order. Every eligible citizen has the right to vote free of obstruction. Deploying non-official, private actors to police the voting process can too often lead to illegal intimidation, discrimination, or disruption, and undermine confidence in our election system, according to a Brennan Center briefing paper. Our experts outline what is and is not allowed under the law, and detail ways voters can protect against harmful activity at the polls. Here are resources for voters who have questions or run into problems.

Voting Machines: Election 2016 has already seen reports of voting machine problems. These include vote-flipping, where a voter intends to cast a ballot for one candidate, but another is selected by mistake. Vote-flipping is not a sign the election is rigged or machines have been hacked, but it does underscore the urgent need to upgrade aging election infrastructure. A comprehensive Brennan Center study examined America’s voting machines and found 42 states use ones that are at least 10 years old. Old equipment increases the risk of failures and crashes, which can lead to long lines and lost votes. Read our briefing memo outlining steps officials can take to prevent problems at the polls, and congressional testimony explaining why our elections are not vulnerable to widespread attack.

Voting Restrictions: This year, 14 states have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election, including swing states like Arizona, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It’s also the first race in half a century without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. Even in states where strict voting laws were blocked or weakened by courts, like North Carolina and Texas, we have seen problems and confusion during early voting. Our experts have been monitoring these issues and will continue to be on the look-out for problems on Election Day. 

Long Lines: Cuts to polling locations, confusion over new voting requirements, faulty machines, and other factors have led to long lines in North Carolina and Texas during early voting this year, and in Arizona during the primaries. In 2012, between 500,000 and 700,000 eligible voters did not cast a ballot due to excessive wait times. Lack of poll workers and voting machines are key contributors to long lines, according to Brennan Center research, and precincts with more minorities experienced longer waits. See our latest analysis of long lines in Arizona’s 2016 primary, which found similar results.

Voter Fraud: “Rigged” is the buzzword if this election, with Donald Trump saying there is “large scale voter fraud.” Every major study, investigation, and court decision has found voter fraud is vanishingly rare. See the Brennan Center’s briefing memo debunking the myth of fraud.