Along with the candidates and the issues, the 2020 presidential election is also going to be about the voting process itself.
Russian efforts to hack into the voting systems of 2016 have boosted election security to a critical concern this time, prompting states to spend tens of millions buying new equipment, hiring cybersecurity wizards and installing software that warns of intrusions — among numerous other steps. More purchases of hardware, software and expertise are coming in the months ahead.
Whether enough money gets spent, and wisely, won't be known for sure until Nov. 3, 2020 — when the system will be subject to the one test that really matters. And whether the country decides the presidential election result is trustworthy will likely come down to how reliably things work in the relatively small number of states both nominees are contesting.
With 11 months to go, The Fulcrum reviewed information from state elections officials, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Election Assistance Commission and news reports to get a sense of the election security landscape. Here's the state of play in the 13 states likeliest to be presidential battlegrounds.
Less than 10 weeks from the opening Democratic presidential primary, would-be voters in New Hampshire are fighting two separate battles in federal court alleging their franchise is being suppressed by new state laws.
This week, a lawsuit brought by the state Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters went to trial. The groups allege that a 2017 law creates an unconstitutional burden on people who want to register less than a month before an election.
Last week, a federal judge declined to stop — at least in time for the Feb. 11 primary — a law requiring college students and others to establish full-fledged residency in order to register.
Both the two-tier system with added paperwork for late-in-the-campaign registrations and the added residency requirements for voters were created when the Legislature was in Republican hands. The GOP lawmakers acted after President Trump alleged without evidence that there had been widespread voter fraud in the state, which Hillary Clinton carried by less than 3,000 votes in 2016.
Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed legislation that would have created an independent commission to draw New Hampshire's electoral boundaries.
A first principle of the democracy reform movement is that the job of electoral mapmaking must be taken out of the hands of the politicians running each state, because whether they're Republicans or Democrats their top priority will be gerrymandering the districts to perpetuate their own partisan advantage.
But the Republican governor, in the veto message released Friday, said the state Constitution gives elected officials — state legislators and the governor — the authority to draw lines for congressional districts, state legislative districts and members of the governor's executive council.
Election officials in Texas, the nation's second largest state and one that's rapidly becoming politically competitive, are being sued by voters and advocacy groups who say the way they reject mail-in ballots is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in San Antonio by two voters and groups who advocate for the disabled, older and disabled veterans, people in jail, and young voters on college campuses.
People in all of those groups tend to make extensive use of mail-in ballots, not only in Texas but across the country. And litigating to ease the rules for this type of voting is becoming an increasing popular tactic for those pushing for better access to the ballot box.