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18,000: the number that shows voting in America is way too hard

"We make democracy way too hard in this country."

That's what Barbara Arnwine, head of a Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights-led coalition of 150 groups that monitored a hotline for voting problems, told The Guardian after Tuesday's midterm elections.

Democracy was even harder than usual on November 4 — strikingly so — if the volume of calls received by the group is any indication.

The hotline answered over 18,000 pleas for help and reports of glitches from distressed voters, many of whom were navigating new, restrictive election laws. The Lawyer's Committee, which does similar work for every election,  said that volume was unusually high.

The full article includes descriptions of the issues voters said they faced. Typical complaints included:

  • Registered voters' names "disappeared" from voting rolls
  • Voters were unable to determine where their polling places were
  • Military ID cards weren't accepted at polling stations, despite the fact that every state includes it as an acceptable form of photo identification
  • Officials asked for photo identification in states that did not require it to vote
  • Polling places did not have interpreters for people speaking English as a second language.

Tuesday's midterm election was the first national election since a Supreme Court decision gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which previously required states and jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination to get approval for any changes to their election laws. A change to Texas's photo ID requirement made since that decision was one of the major sources of confusion and calls to the Lawyer's Committee.

Read more at The Guardian.

Correction: This article originally stated that the hotline received 12,000 calls. It has been updated to reflect a Lawyers' Committee press release reporting that the final number of calls received was more than 18,000.

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