Friday, July 10, 2020

'Epic failure': U.S. election officials warn of November chaos due to budget crunch

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Michigan town wants machines to speed up counting of absentee ballots. In Ohio, officials want to equip polling places so voters and poll workers feel safe from the coronavirus. Georgia officials, rattled by a chaotic election last month, want to send voters forms so they can request absentee ballots more easily.

FILE PHOTO: Jocelyn Bush, a poll worker at the Edmondson Westside High School Polling site, cleans each station after a ballot is cast, during the special election for Marylands 7th congressional district seat, previously held by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

In all three cases, the money is not there to make it happen, say local officials responsible for running elections in the states - any one of which could determine who wins the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Presidential nominating contests held this year in states from Wisconsin to Georgia have exposed massive challenges in conducting elections during the worst public health crisis in a century. Closed or understaffed polling venues led to long lines, there were problems delivering absentee ballots, and the votes took days, even weeks, to count.
But instead of receiving more money for the all-important contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, officials face budget cuts after tax revenues plunged in the virus-stricken economy, two dozen election officials across several battleground states told Reuters.
The consequences, they warn, go beyond practical headaches to the risk voters’ faith in the process will be undermined.
“What kind of price tag are you going to put on the integrity of the election process and the safety of those who work it and those who vote?” said Tina Barton, the city clerk and chief elections official in Rochester Hills, Michigan, a state where Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 11,000 votes. “Those are the things at risk.”
This year’s nominating contests have shown that voting in the pandemic age costs more: Officials have to buy masks, face shields and other equipment to virus-proof polling places. They also must spend more to mail and count ballots.
Many officials say they don’t have the funding to do either job properly. Election experts say Americans are likely to vote in record numbers in November, when control of Congress will also be up for grabs along with state governorships and legislatures.

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