Americans head to the polls Tuesday for an election that has state and local officials across the country facing off as they prepare for potential trouble at the polls, legal battles over ballot disputes and the fight against misinformation about the vote itself.
More than 41 million pre-election ballots have been cast in 47 states, and officials are expecting big turnout on Election Day as well for the congressional, state and gubernatorial races that will determine control of Congress and state legislatures.
Most of the tens of millions of people who will vote on Tuesday will do so without problems, in an election where early voting was ahead of 2018 levels.
At the same time, election officials are battling new pressures amid a hyper-polarized political climate that has seen the vote itself come under a continuous barrage of attacks and disinformation for the better part of two years amid repeated false claims by former President Donald Trump. Trump that the 2020 election was stolen.
State and local officials and voting rights advocates said the political attacks sparked an exodus of local election officials in charge of voting amid a sharp increase in threats of violence against election workers.
Early voting offered a glimpse of potential problems both big and small that could emerge on Election Day, from armed ballot box watchers in Arizona accused of plotting to intimidate voters to a legal battle over technical errors that invalidate ballots by mail in Pennsylvania.
In all, there were about 120 legal 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 Democracy Docket, a liberal think tank. -support voting rights and media platforms that follow election litigation.
In Pennsylvania, some counties are asking voters to correct absentee ballots with missing or inappropriate dates that the state Supreme Court has ordered to be set aside, while a federal legal challenge is still looming. In Michigan, meanwhile, a judge dismissed a lawsuit Monday from the GOP candidate for secretary of state and seeks to throw out absentee ballots in Democratic-heavy Detroit.
On Monday, Georgia’s Cobb County extended the deadline for about 1,000 absentee ballots to be returned to Nov. 14, after ballots were not mailed until days before Election Day due to procedural errors at the election office.
In addition to legal battles, election officials are anticipating possible clashes with election deniers who have harassed and threatened officials over the 2020 election and are preparing for aggressive surveillance in the upcoming midterm contests.
In North Carolina, about 15 incidents of alleged intimidation have been reported to the state Board of Elections since early in-person voting began.
Incidents included people outside of a county election board videotaping an election worker’s license plate and a situation where an election worker was followed from the polling site to the election office and followed through the neighborhoods.
In Arizona, the secretary of state’s office sent 18 referrals to law enforcement related to drop box intimidation, including a threatening message directed at a government worker and several voters who reported being filmed at a drop box location in Maricopa County last week. the past A federal judge earlier this month imposed new restrictions against a right-wing group in the state after complaints about aggressive patrols at ballot boxes in the state, including barring members from openly carrying weapons or wearing body armor. .
Federal officials have warned that domestic violent extremism poses a major threat to the 2022 midterms.
The storm is also an unpredictable variable: In Florida, Subtropical Storm Nicole is bearing down on the state and is expected to bring rain and gusty winds to the state on Election Day before it could become a hurricane and make landfall Wednesday.
As the votes come in and begin processing and counting on Tuesday, election officials are on the lookout for conspiracy theories that often spread like wildfire but are flat-out false.
Because laws in states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan prevent early processing of mail-in ballots, those states may 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 include more Republicans, are likely to be tabulated before mail-in ballots, which more Democrats expect. To use.
The opposite could be true in Arizona, where mail-in ballots are processed as soon as they are received, meaning those ballots are counted first after the polls close.