TOPICS > Politics > Vote 2016

Are voters having problems at the polls?

November 8, 2016 at 6:30 PM EST
The integrity of the election has been a major theme this election season. William Brangham speaks with Jessica Huseman of ProPublica about lines and security at the polls, what we are seeing in terms of voter intimidation, who’s allowed to talk to voters and who’s not.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Every election year, it seems there are reports of long lines, malfunctioning voting machines, and sporadic chaos at some of the polls. And today is no different.

But, for months, we have heard accusations, as we have just been discussing here, by the Trump campaign that the election is rigged and could possibly be stolen.

We head up now to William Brangham. He’s in our newsroom with what we have been seeing so far today — William.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Hi, Judy. Thanks very much.

Yes, we’re trying to sort out all — amongst all the reports we have been getting today, what of these are real and what of them are not?

And to help us sort of through that, I’m joined now by Jessica Huseman. She’s a reporter at ProPublica, and she’s part of a really interesting large consortium of election monitors known as Electionland.

Jessica, welcome.

Let’s dive right into this.

Today, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit alleging that there were some problems going on in Nevada. Can you bring us up to date? What was their complaint? And what’s happened with that?

JESSICA HUSEMAN, ProPublica: Sure.

So, what they were asking the judge was essentially separate out some votes at a couple of polling locations that were kept open late. And they were also asking for the names of the poll workers in those locations, so that they could investigate themselves.

The judge turned down both of those requests, one, because the state of Nevada already does that. They already keep the votes separate. There was no need for the judge to rule that they must do something that they already do.

And then also she was concerned that the voter — that the poll workers that he wanted access to would be intimidated or otherwise harassed online if she were to make their names public. And so she declined to do that, and also said that there was no proof that the secretary of state of Nevada wouldn’t do a thorough investigation herself.

So, the Trump campaign really just didn’t show enough reason for her to do these things that it was asking them to do.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, I understand these were largely Latino voters that the Trump campaign was concerned had been allowed some special access to vote…

JESSICA HUSEMAN: Sure.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: … and that this seems to fit into this pattern that the Trump campaign has been making all along, that somehow the polls are going to be wiggled so that certain voters, maybe minority voters, might get special access.

And I know the Trump campaign has also asked some of its own supporters to go out and watch and monitor what’s going on at the polls.

Have you been seeing any reports of that kind of activity that would be problematic today?

JESSICA HUSEMAN: You know, we have seen one-off reports of those kind of all over the country, but they have been in the vast minority of instances.

So, what we’re not seeing at this moment is an organized campaign to intimidate voters, like some feared we might see today. We haven’t seen any indication of that. What we have seen is one or two people at polling places across the country, but a very small number of them intimidating voters, screaming at voters, having intimidating or inappropriate signs, but no real indication that anything organized has transpired.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We have also been seeing reports that there were problems with some voting machines in Pennsylvania. Can you tell us what you heard about that?

JESSICA HUSEMAN: Right. So, we actually just published an article about this. And so you can go to Election.land and read it.

But the — what we’re seeing is that there was a viral video that happened where a voter tried to press Trump, and it wasn’t working. And so it — and so he blamed it on a rigged voting machine, but it was actually user error.

And we were able to see this by looking up the instructions for the voting machine.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Similarly, in Durham County, North Carolina, which obvious is a very crucial swing state, there have been long lines, problems with registration, absent — not enough ballots for people.

What’s been going on there? I understand there’s been also calls to keep the polls open later there tonight, so that some voters who might have been pushed aside might get a chance to vote after all. What’s going on there?

JESSICA HUSEMAN: Sure. Yes.

I mean, we’re seeing long lines there. There are fewer voting locations this year than there have been in elections past. And so — and given that this is a high-turnout election, we were expecting long lines in these states. We were expecting long lines in other states that reduced their polling locations.

And so we’re seeing in North Carolina what we expected to see all along. And so it’s not clear how those requests for the polls will — it’s not clear how the requests will transpire for the polls to stay open later. But there are certainly those requests being made.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is obviously the first presidential election we have had since the Supreme Court chipped away at some significant parts of the Voting Rights Act.

And one of the concerns there was that minority voters might be disenfranchised with what happens after that Supreme Court ruling. More broadly, have you seen any reports of those types of things going on?

JESSICA HUSEMAN: Right.

And so, you know, just like in North Carolina, what we’re seeing in those places is that there is a limited number of poling locations this year compared to what there was in 2012. And so we are seeing longer lines there.

And, as previous studies have shown, those longer lines tend to disproportionately affect minority voters.

And if we use Texas as an example, for instance, they changed their voter I.D. laws. And while that was taken to federal court and struck down, it only happened in July. And that’s really close to the start of an election.

So what we’re seeing there is a ton of confusion around what I.D. you actually have to bring to the polls, both on the part of poll workers and on voters themselves. So, confusion just really doesn’t create clean elections.

And so even when these issues have been litigated in court, they have been litigated so late, because they don’t have to be pre-approved anymore, that we’re still seeing confusion, we’re still seeing unexpectedly long lines, and we’re still seeing these problems that face voters that really just shouldn’t.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Jessica Huseman of ProPublica, thank you so much.

We’re going to send it back down to Hari and Judy in the studio.

JESSICA HUSEMAN: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, William.

And I know we’re going to be checking back with them, the folks at ProPublica, throughout the night.

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