Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Voting anxieties and campaign turmoil yield to a pretty regular Election Day

Georgia voting stickers

Georgia, which has become a competitive state in the presidential race, was home to voting difficulties early Tuesday that were later resolved without legal action.

Megan Varner/Getty Images

After one wild and crazy election season, evening has fallen on an Election Day that seems to have been refreshingly normal. That was the general sense for how things were going at polling places across the country, with only a few hours to go Tuesday.

There were sporadic and isolated problems but nothing close to widespread technological glitches. And the most notable effort to suppress voting — misleading robocalls in several states that the FBI was investigating — may have been the most alarming thing keeping election officials and independent monitors on their toes.

But, with a few hours to go, one of the most divisive and complex tests ever for American electoral democracy seemed to be nearing the end with unexpected calm. And very long lines of people waiting to do their civic duty.


"We were bracing for the worst and have been pleasantly surprised," Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which ran the largest election monitoring operation in the country, said in the early evening.

More than 101 million people had voted ahead of Election Day — almost two-thirds of them by mail, with several million more such absentee ballots expected to get delivered on time to be counted.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

President Trump has relentlessly cast doubt on the security of the election, focusing mainly on mail-in ballots. His campaign organized an army of 50,000 volunteers to monitor day-of voting in Democratic-leaning areas. But there had been essentially no verifiable reports of voter intimidation.

In D.C., federal Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Postal Service to conduct a sweep of a dozen Postal Service processing facilities during the afternoon to "ensure that no ballots have been held up" in regions that have been slow to process mail ballots. He ordered the inspections after the agency said about 300,000 ballots seemed essentially missing in transit.

But at the end of the afternoon, USPS essentially said it had ignored the judge's order in favor of sticking with its own quality control schedule.

At the same time, a wave of suspicious robocalls and texts began bombarding telephones in much of the country soon after the polls opened, their unclear origin raising suspicions of last-minute foreign interference. Millions of them urged people to "stay safe and stay home" on Election Day. Another wave of automated calls in Flint, the sixth largest city in battleground Michigan, told people to vote tomorrow if they hoped to avoid long lines today.

That is not possible, of course, leaving officials scrambling to reassure voters of the rules. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan pledged to "work quickly to stamp out misinformation." The FBI was investigating the larger wave of calls.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the many voting rights groups that has battled all year to make voting easier despite the coronavirus pandemic, detailed the range of complaints to its hotline. The presidential battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Texas had produced the most calls — along with reliably blue New York.

Thirty phone banks of volunteer attorneys across the country had fielded 30,000 calls by the evening, still a relatively high call volume reflecting the elecortrate's anxieties. The top complaints were about challenged registrations, potential voter intimidation and polling site access.

Clarke said the most concerning incident stemmed from plagued electronic poll books in two rural counties near Atlanta. Voters were being asked to use paper ballots, but those soon ran out at several locations.

Clarke initially labeled the situation a "crisis-level issue" in tossup Georgia and said her group was considering suing to force an extension of voting hours. But later in the day she said the situation had been largely resolved.

In Philadelphia, two precincts did not open their polls before the afternoon.

Concerns about excessively long waiting times at the polls, historically a sign of voter suppression in many parts of the Unites States, were reported at numerous locations around the country in the morning — but those lines eased after the vote-as-soon-as-possible rush ended.

One likely reason for that is the record-setting number of people who voted by mail or in person in advance — leaving perhaps only 50 million ballots to be cast Tuesday, or one-third the total cast four years ago.

Two incidents of voter intimidation were reported in Florida. In one, five pickup trucks were blocking the entrance to a parking lot at a polling place in Orange County, where Orlando is located. In the other, two men who said they were with law enforcement, but were not in uniform, were seated outside a polling place in Tampa and were questioning voters as they entered.

In Ohio, voting machines malfunctioned at several polling sites in Franklin County, where Columbus is located, forcing people to use paper ballots. Other voters were given provisional ballots, which Clarke said was improper.

North Carolina's Board of Elections extended voting at four voting locations in suburban counties near Greensboro, Charlotte and Fayetteville. The board granted extensions as long as 45 minutes — meaning a delay in reporting results statewide until 8:15 p.m.. State law says no returns can be announced until all voting has ended. The extensions were sought because of technical glitches that caused the doors to open late in all four places.

Approximately 50 voters were given an incorrect ballot (it was missing a state House race) when they showed up to vote right when the polls opened at Hickory Ridge Middle School in Harrisburg, outside Charlotte. County officials made arrangements for them to vote for other offices in the morning and come back later to vote for state representative.

Read More

Thomas Main

"I think the roots of racism run deep in this country. This means that the potential audience for illiberal racialist movements is much deeper than the potential audience for anarchism and communism," said professor Thomas Main

Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation

Illiberal ideas are having a negative effect on our political culture

Berman is a distinguished fellow of practice at The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, co-editor of Vital City, and co-author of "Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age." This is the first in a series of interviews titled "The Polarization Project."

In a 2022 speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden issued a dramatic warning: Democracy in the United States is “under assault,” he announced. Biden declared that the dangers of rising extremism, particularly from “MAGA Republicans,” posed a “clear and present danger” to the country.

In making this claim, Biden was echoing the sentiments of countless pundits, think tanks, and editorial pages that have been warning of a “coming crisis.” According to Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "Ideas that were once confined to fringe groups now appear in the mainstream media. White-supremacist ideas, militia fashion, and conspiracy theories spread via gaming websites, YouTube channels, and blogs, while a slippery language of memes, slang, and jokes blurs the line between posturing and provoking violence, normalizing radical ideologies and activities."

Keep ReadingShow less
People walking out of a polling station

Two people leave a polling station in London after voting in July 4.

Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images

Watching the U.K. election gives a feeling of electoral envy

Sheehan Zaino is a professor of political science and international studies at Iona University, Bloomberg political contributor and senior democracy fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress

Many Brits were perplexed when Rishi Sunak called for general elections, particularly given polls suggesting his party would lose. The results prove their concerns were valid.

As an American, I questioned the timing of the election as well, although for a very different reason.

Was the choice of a rare summer poll, on our Independence Day, meant to stick it to us? By choosing our nation’s birthday to go to the polls, perhaps the Brits were trying to rub our nose in the fact that for all our Framers got right (and there’s a lot!), there are a few areas where they faltered, primary among them our electoral process.

Keep ReadingShow less
People seated ina  large room

Attendees at the Braver Angels convention watch the presidential debate.

Jeff Sevier

Building civic hope through Braver Angels

Boyte is co-founder and senior scholar of public work philosophy at the Institute for Public Life and Work.

Last month’s Braver Angels convention in Kenosha, Wis., began with perhaps the largest debate watch party in the nation. Around 700 delegates observed the exchanges between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a giant screen in the chapel of Carthage College on the shore of Lake Michigan. Equal numbers of Republicans wearing red lanyards and Democrats wearing blue ones, roughly 300 of each, with 170 independents and “others” identified by yellow and white, mingled together.

To emphasize the BA mission of bridging America’s toxic polarization, the site for the convention was chosen because Kenosha is midway between Milwaukee, host of the Republican convention, and Chicago, where the Democratic convention will take place.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fifty years later, I'm still a dreamer
The American tragedy of the Trump assassination attempt
The American tragedy of the Trump assassination attempt

Fifty years later, I'm still a dreamer

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

When I was a young man, I thought our country was more divided than it had ever been and couldn’t possibly get worse.

I was a young teen when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and a college student in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were senselessly assassinated. I witnessed the near-fatal shooting that almost ended the life of President Ronald Reagan just three months into his first term in 1981.

And now the attempt on former President Donald Trump's life in 2024.

Keep ReadingShow less