After the months and months of punditry, predictions, and fevered speculation, the 2014 midterm elections are finally upon us. They're by any reckoning going to have a major impact on the final two years of President Obama's term, and beyond — the Republicans have a good chance of seizing the Senate tonight, unless Democratic voters turn out in a big, big way. But sometimes, in some places, just turning out isn't enough: Midterm election voting problems have arisen in multiple states, according to reports, which is always a foreboding sign.
Basically, throughout America's electoral history, there's a long and grim history of people having to wait an astonishing amount of time to vote. Some people, obviously, may opt for absentee ballots through the mail, but if you want to exercise your constitutional right by going someplace and pushing a button, things running smoothly is of the utmost importance. And sadly, some places each new election inevitably don't have it together.
So far, Tuesday's election day has been no exception. Across Connecticut, Maine, Alabama, and Tennessee, voters are being faced with obstacles to casting their ballots, both overt and subtle. It's the sort of thing President Obama was talking about after he won the 2012 election — "we need to fix that," he said.
The most major irregularities being reported are undoubtedly those in Hartford, Connecticut's capital city, where voters at four different sites were reportedly stymied by a variety of reasons, lack of monitors and on-time voter rolls among them. The situation is bad enough that President Obama personally called on the voters to persevere, calling into Hartford's NPR station with words of encouragement.
If people were planning to vote before going to work, and they weren't able to do it, that's frustrating. I want to encourage everyone who is listening not to be deterred by what was obviously an inconvenience. ... Don't be discouraged, Hartford, if you had some problems this morning. Please go vote. Do not give away your power. Do not buy into the notion that it doesn't make a difference. It really does.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, an incumbent Democrat running for reelection, has filed a request with the Hartford Superior Court to have voting hours extended, in consideration of the delays.
Long voting delays have also been reported in Maine, exacerbated by the state's high levels of turnout, and an unexpected morning snowstorm that knocked out power for thousands, and forced last-minute relocations for a number of polling places. Rest assured, as tumultuous as voting can be at its best, packing up shop and moving your polling place on the morning of election day is a headache nobody deserves, and hopefully it doesn't dissuade or discourage any voters.
Alabama's electoral process has been embroiled in a very familiar controversy lately — the Republican-led charge for new voter ID laws, which Democrats and voting rights activists alike have condemned as an effort to tamp down turnout among historically left-leaning voting blocs, lower-income voters, the elderly, and African-Americans in particular.
Setting aside the constitutionality of this idea entirely, it seems fair to assume that any truly good-faith effort to require voter ID ought to make obtaining the necessary identification entirely free, and with the new rules clearly and simply laid out well in advance of election day. Troublingly, however, some Alabama voters learned pretty late in the game that their IDs weren't good enough, by decision of the state's Attorney General — the state abruptly revealed that public housing IDs would not be accepted, leaving the people who were counting on those IDs with effectively no time to compensate.
This one's actually a concern in any voter ID state, not just Tennessee, but the reporting from WREG Memphis' Jessica Certler tells the tale — having to show a driver's license can be a problem for trans voters, a disincentive for something we ought to be encouraging. As Ellyahnna Hall described, the photo and gender listed on her ID don't match what people see when they look at her, essentially functioning as a sort of public outing.
Every election I vote because I feel it is very important. I am concerned with the new voting law that there could be an issue when I go into vote. The ID is sort of a giveaway. An outing in a sense. It can lead people to identify you and discriminate against you.
Basically, this is the example of a subtle, ostensibly unintended consequence of voter ID — because many U.S. states have regressive, out-of-date and onerous rules about getting your gender changed on your driver's license, forcing a photo ID for voters may make trans voters less willing to take part. And although everyone absolutely should make the effort to vote, it's kind of understandable. Who wants to potentially be judged for their gender identity by some guy at a polling station?
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