This year’s presidential election is the first to be held without a key enforcement provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, leading some experts to warn about possible trouble at the polls. Some key concerns and how voters can get help:
State and local election officials regularly remove voters from their lists, a process known as purging. Experts say the process is critical for ensuring accurate and up-to-date information, but it also can pose a risk that eligible voters will be removed.
In 2006, a state court ordered Kentucky to reverse its purge after it was revealed that people on the list for moving out of state had in fact not moved. Two years earlier, Florida officials reversed a plan to remove 48,000 suspected felons from the voter rolls after it was revealed that many of them were still eligible to vote.
Just last month, a federal appeals court ruled Ohio’s process for maintaining its voter rolls wrongfully removed eligible people based on their failure to vote in recent elections. Georgia has a similar policy, which also is being challenged in federal court. Lawyers in the Georgia case say roughly 372,000 voters were purged between 2012 and 2014.
Experts say voters whose names are missing from the rolls when they show up to vote should insist on casting a provisional ballot and calling a voter assistance group.
Long lines can be a sign of voter enthusiasm, but become a problem if people choose to leave without casting a ballot because of the wait.
During the 2012 presidential election, the key battleground state of Florida had the longest average wait time of all states — 45 minutes, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Eight states had an average wait time of less than five minutes.
This year, several large counties in Florida have expanded their early voting hours in an effort to attract more voters and reduce the possibility of long lines.
Experts encourage voters to take advantage of early voting opportunities if available.
WHO TO CALL
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission encourages those who experience voting-related problems to contact their state or local election office for information on how to file a complaint. Complaints also can be registered with the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-800-253-3931 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Various groups also offer assistance, including the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition. The group can be reached at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or online at http://www.866ourvote.org .
The Clinton campaign has a voter hotline to assist those who have questions about how to register or the location of their polling place. It also will have volunteer lawyers available to assist voters.
The Trump campaign did not respond to an email seeking information on its voter assistance efforts.