It’s just a scant few hours to the 2016 election result and last minute voters are flooding the polling stations across the country. However, incidents of voter intimidation have now reached an all-time high.
The Election Protection National Command Center has received more than 400,000 calls of people reporting voter intimidation and suppression in just the first few hours after polls opened on Tuesday. By 9:30 a.m., the number increased to over 5,500 calls.
More than half the complaints came from Pennsylvania, said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause at a press conference in Washington.
In East Lansing, Michigan, a man tried to prevent two women in hijab from voting and asked them for their vote registration cards — even though there were no apparent identifier stickers of a poll worker on him. He was later asked to leave by some actual poll workers.
Altercations also erupted in Florida when a crowd reportedly confronted voters. According to one eyewitness account, a woman’s car was surrounded and touched by a car. She did not feel comfortable parking and left the place without voting. Two precinct clerks were fired after the incident.
At another site in Florida, a person claiming to be representing a political party entered a church in a majority-black neighborhood and refused to leave.
A site in Pennsylvania denied access to Spanish speaking voters.
Since then, five states in the south have instituted new voter ID laws and around 800 polling stations previously covered by the Voting Rights Act have been closed or relocated. This alone has caused confusion amongst voters. Additionally, 43 percent have reported problems at polling sites that opened late or had malfunctioning equipment and 28 percent said their names had been removed from the registration record.
“There is tremendous disruption at the polls today across the country,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said at a press conference. “This election may be the most chaotic for voters of color and voters with disabilities in the last 50 years. … What we're seeing today is really a perfect storm for voter disenfranchisement.”
Authorities have urged voters who witness or experience voter intimidation to call:
The Lawyers' Committee: 866-OUR-VOTE
The Justice Department voting rights hotline: 800-253-3931
Asian and Pacific Islanders: 888-API-VOTE