Casting a ballot in the 2020 election could be challenging, depending on when, where and how you plan to vote.
Record early in-person voting has produced long lines and long waits to cast ballots.
Amid the heavy turnout, many voters are finding that the polling places they are used to voting at have been closed or consolidated with another, larger venue.
Election officials say they cannot accommodate social distancing restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and are having a difficult time getting poll workers to agree to volunteer to spend a day in close contact with thousands of voters.
According to Richard Barron, elections supervisor in Fulton County, Georgia, up to a third of Fulton County voters will be voting in a different polling place this year.
According to Barron, the reason polling places were changed was to cut down on the number of voters assigned to each polling place.
County elections officials are encouraging voters to check beforehand to make sure they’re going to the right place.
“Our goal was to get 5,000 or less in as many precincts as possible, we almost achieved getting that to a 100% level,” Barron told WABE.
Nearly 21,000 polling places have closed nationwide since the 2016 presidential election, representing a 20% cut in polling places on average nationwide, according to a story from VICE News. The story showed that the deepest cuts in polling places were made in California, Maryland, Kentucky, New Jersey, Nevada and North Dakota.
An increase in mail-in voting, the COVID-19 pandemic and cost-cutting measures were cited as reasons for many of the closures. However, some interviewed for the VICE article say that there is a more sinister reason for the closings – voter suppression.
“Closing this many polling places at such a vast scale really does affect voters. Fewer polling places can lead to longer lines, longer wait times, and hurt people, particularly people who are disabled or don’t drive and rely on public transportation,” Leigh Chapman, the voting rights program director at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told VICE.
Republicans have vowed to keep watch at the polls, enlisting up to 50,000 poll watchers to monitor polling places for any Election Day problems, including voter suppression, they say.
Some Democrats claim that the watchers would represent polling place intimidation. Republicans say they are simply observing the process.
Republican National Committee chief counsel Justin Riemer told NPR that poll watchers are looking for any voting irregularities.
“The Democrats would say that we are there to suppress the vote. That is absolutely not the case. I can assure you that that is not why we have volunteers and attorneys participating in this process,” Reimer said.
Both sides suggest that before you head out to cast your ballot that you double-check where you are assigned to vote.
Below you can click on the link to your state, enter some information, and find out where your polling place is located.
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