ATLANTA (AP) — Voters headed to the polls throughout the U.S. on Tuesday within the first wave of elections testing new Republican restrictions on entry to ballots.
For election officers, it’s an opportunity to counter a yr’s price of misinformation about voting safety and restore religion in democracy for many who nonetheless have doubts about final yr’s presidential election.
“It’s a nice gown rehearsal for 2022,” stated Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.
A lot of the eye will likely be on Virginia and New Jersey, the place voters are casting ballots for governor and different statewide races. In the remainder of the nation, voters had been making choices on quite a lot of native races, starting from mayor and metropolis council to highschool board and bond measures. Voters in Maine, New York, Texas and some different few states had been contemplating poll initiatives on a wide selection of subjects.
For some, the voting expertise will likely be completely different from final yr, when officers applied pandemic-related modifications to make it simpler for voters to keep away from crowded polling locations. Some states have made these modifications everlasting, whereas others have rolled a few of them again.
In Virginia, lawmakers final yr expanded absentee voting completely by now not requiring an excuse. However a requirement for a witness signature on absentee ballots that was waived final yr is again, and officers have been working to contact voters who’ve been delivering ballots with out them. These voters can have till Friday to repair the problem or their ballots is not going to be counted.
In a couple of states, voters had been encountering tighter voting guidelines due to legal guidelines enacted in states managed politically by Republicans. Amongst them are Florida and Georgia, the place voters face new ID necessities for utilizing mail ballots.
Republicans have stated their modifications had been wanted to enhance safety and public confidence following the 2020 presidential election. They acted as former President Donald Trump continued his false claims that the election was stolen regardless of no proof of widespread fraud.
These claims had been rejected by judges and election officers of each events who licensed the outcomes and Trump’s own attorney general, who stated federal regulation enforcement had not seen fraud “on a scale that would have effected a special final result within the election.”
Voting rights teams stated varied hotlines can be out there to help voters who’ve questions or encounter issues on the polls or with their mail ballots. Damon Hewitt, whose group the Attorneys’ Committee for Civil Rights Beneath Legislation leads the trouble, stated Tuesday offered an necessary check.
“It’s a check of voters to run the gauntlet, to determine these new guidelines and restrictions,” Hewitt stated. “And admittedly, it’s additionally a check of our democracy: How robust can or not it’s, and are we prepared to tolerate these efforts to make it more durable for folks to vote.”
Tuesday additionally will likely be a possibility for election officers to coach voters about how the system works and counter the misinformation that also surrounds the 2020 presidential vote. False claims have led to harassment and even dying threats in opposition to state and native election officers.
“We now have to do extra to fight it, get in entrance of it and admittedly educate the general public concerning the voting course of,” stated Amber McReynolds, former Denver elections clerk and CEO of the Nationwide Vote at Dwelling Institute. “As a result of a part of the rationale that there’s disinformation and it has been in a position to circulation because it has, is that the overwhelming majority of People don’t perceive how the election course of works.”
Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida.
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