I. In Focus This Week
Sixteen things to watch in ‘16
What we’ll be watching as voters head to the polls on Nov. 8
By M. Mindy Moretti
This is it. The end is finally nigh…well at least (we hope) for the 2016 election cycle.
Although millions of voters have already cast their ballots either through early voting, absentee voting or vote-by-mail, millions more will head to the polls on November 8 and cast their ballot for the 45th president of the United States as well as countless other federal, state and local races and many ballot issues.
It’s been a tumultuous election cycle to say the least, even for election administrators who have had to deal with new laws, new voting equipment, countless lawsuits and in the waning days of the election, accusations of fraud and rigging.
There’s a lot to watch on Tuesday and electionline will be doing Election Dispatches through the day. And while we will not doubt be following everything, these are 16 things we will be paying special attention to.
Good luck and may the gods of democracy have mercy on our souls!
(Editor’s Note: Due to the high volume of daily stories, electionlineToday will publish both on Saturday November 5 and Sunday November 6, by around 10 a.m. each day).
1) Poll Watchers — much has been made about voter fraud and a rigged election with candidates urging their supporters to become poll watchers. While some have gone the official route, other groups have vowed to watch the polls. What impact will these poll watchers have on turnout? Will there be any violence?
2) Ballot Selfies — one of the hottest late-cycle topics of conversation—like it or not—was the legality of ballot selfies. Some states allow ballot selfies, some don’t Will there be issues with voters taking a ballot selfie in the states where it’s illegal? Will local law enforcement pursue the scofflaws?
3) Voter ID — voter ID is always something to watch, especially in a presidential election cycle when many people are voting for the first time in four years. The two states to keep the closest eye on are Texas and Wisconsin where lawsuits and judges’ rulings kept the rules in play until almost the very last minute.
4) Voting machines — will old and new voting machines function properly on Election Day? Will concerns about “vote flipping” that popped up during early voting spread to November 8?
5) Turnout — with many states reporting record-breaking voter registration rates, will that translate to record breaking turnout rates? Will that even translate into higher rates of turnout than in 2008 and 2012?
6) Weather — although Election Day 2016 isn’t facing the ramifications of a super storm like 2012 did, there are still weather-related issues to be mindful of. Will Election Day weather impact turnout? How will displaced voters in Louisiana, West Virginia, North Carolina and other states impacted by Hurricane Matthew fair on Election Day?
7) Polling place issues — aside from poll watchers and those watching the watchers, drama at polling places is always on tap on Election Day. Will a polling place be shut down because of a nearby gas leak or some sort of nearby violence (most likely)? Will a polling place lose power and be forced to switch to back-up generators or take the polls outside (probably)? Will a polling place open late because someone overslept or the keys to the polling site got lost (without a doubt)? Will someone create a scene because they refuse to remove campaign-related clothing to a polling place (already happened)? Guns are legal in polling places in some states, will someone bring one in (we have no doubt)? Will a car crash into a polling place somewhere in American on Election Day (inevitably)?
8) Lines — in 2012, even as President Barack Obama was giving his near-midnight acceptance speech voters will still in line in some states casting their ballots. What sort of lines will Election Day 2016 bring? Will the large early voting turnout or high vote-by-mail rate help ease those problems?
9) Result reporting — many counties and states have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade their vote-counting and vote reporting system. Will the results come in on time?
10) Ballot Issues — ballot measures dictating how elections are run are on the ballot in at least seven states. Everything from ranked choice voting to open primaries to automatic voter registration is on the ballot.
11) Secretary of state races — the top elections spot is on the ballot in eight states with five of the eight being open seats. In some states—New Mexico, Oregon and Washington—the secretary of state race has become the race to watch on Tuesday night.
12) Vote by mail — vote-by-mail has become increasingly popular not only with election administrators but also voters. It does require longer to count. Do Americans have the patience for that? They may enjoy the convenience but will they be OK without knowing the results right away? Despite assurances from the Postal Service, will all those ballots make it there by the required deadlines?
13) Early voting — many states and counties reported record-breaking early voting numbers. Will those numbers affect overall turnout? Will the counting of those ballots help speed up the overall process of release of results?
14) Provisional ballots — although they haven’t received quite as much attention as in previous years, what impact will provisional ballots have on the 2016 race?
15) There’s an app for that — 2016 has seen countless voter assistance apps pop up. How will those apps help voters? Are they reliable? In addition, what sort of impacts will social media — not always known as the paragon of truth — have on Election Day?
16) The unknown unknowns—and then there are the unknown unknowns. Things that no one can see or saw coming. Something seems to happen every election year, what will it be in 2016?
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