Ns News Online Desk: Residents report hours-long waits as early voting for the presidential election began in states across the US.Early voting has started in more than 20 states ahead of the November 3 United States presidential election and already, the turnout has far surpassed past contests, leading some experts to project record-breaking participation this year.
More than 25 million ballots have been cast through in-person early ballots and mail-in voting as of Saturday, the United States Election Project said, which corresponds to more than 18 percent of all the votes counted in the 2016 presidential race.But that early voter engagement, in part fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, has also led to new challenges, as long lines and hours-long waits were reported at polling sites in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana and Ohio, among other states.The time-consuming process has been attributed to enthusiasm in a charged political climate, eagerness to avoid the polls on election day because of the novel coronavirus, and, in some cases, glitches with the voting infrastructure.
But it is also evidence of barriers that many US voters face, according to voting rights advocates, who said that those barriers, which can make casting a ballot a day-long affair, often disproportionately affect minority communities.Critics also said that some voting systems, which are overseen by and differ between each respective US state, even in national elections, are inherently designed to help one party over the other.
“The long lines are happening not by accident but design,” the National Election Defense Coalition, a group of election-monitoring organizations, tweeted on October 15. “Voters must stand up to defend our system of government.”In Georgia, where polls opened on Monday, some voters waited more than eight hours to cast their votes, according to local media.
The first day of voting in the state saw 128,000 residents go to the polls, smashing 2016’s first-day turnout of 91,000, The Associated Press news agency reported.
State officials said the turnout was “extreme and tremendous” and, therefore, lines were to be expected. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm around this election, and you’re going to see high turnout. Because of that, we’re going to see lines,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.The delays were partially fueled by problems with voter check-in computers at polling sites in the Atlanta area, according to local media.
But an analysis by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica, published Saturday in coordination with National Public Radio, indicated a more insidious problem: A shrinking number of polling sites in the state.
The news outlets reported that while the reduction of polling places has taken place “across racial lines”, it has had an outsizes effect on nonwhite communities that have seen spikes in voter registration and where residents are more likely to cast ballots in person.