What To Make Of The Claims Of Vote-Rigging And Voter Intimidation | KERA News

What To Make Of The Claims Of Vote-Rigging And Voter Intimidation

Nov 6, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's been a lot of talk this election season about the integrity of Tuesday's vote. Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested the vote might be rigged against him and urged his supporters to monitor the polls. Democrats say that could cause illegal voter intimidation or even violence.

But even before that, Democrats and some others have complained that some states are trying to find other ways to keep Democratic-leaning voters from the polls by reducing the number of polling places and hours, allowing long lines. Even nonpartisans are concerned about whether voting machines will work or be susceptible to hacking. NPR's Pam Fessler covers voting issues, and we called her to help us sort out what voters should and should not be worried about and what they can do if they do run into a problem. And she's with us now. Pam, thanks so much for joining us.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: You're welcome.

MARTIN: So how worried should voters be that something's going to go wrong on Election Day?

FESSLER: Well, I think if history is any guide, 99.9 percent of all voters are going to have no problem at all at the polls. Everything's going to go fine. However, as we all know, this election's been very unusual, and we don't know exactly what can happen. You mentioned the calls by Donald Trump for his supporters to go monitor the polls and this has led to some concerns about just who will show up at the polls and what in fact they will do. Now, there are laws guiding what poll watchers can do. Usually there is an official poll watcher from each party and each campaign inside a polling place. They are not supposed to interfere with voters.

But we also have all these groups that say they're going to watch the polls from outside, these unaffiliated groups, including some militia ones. And there's concern about in fact what they will do.

MARTIN: What does a voter do or what can a voter do if he or she does feel that there's something not right?

FESSLER: Well, I think that first of all, the voters should know what the rules are. There's usually a buffer zone around an election polling place where there can't be any kind of activity inside. You're supposed to be free from any kind of intimidation. You should know what that zone is. If you feel like somebody is intimidating you or blocking your access, first, you should go to the election official and complain about it, and they usually will do something or if the person isn't going away, they'll call law enforcement.

MARTIN: We've heard concerns about, you know, the potential for fraud. Right?

FESSLER: Right.

MARTIN: I don't know how one would address that, but let's just say for the sake of argument that you somehow believe that someone is voting who does not belong in a particular place or doesn't have the right to do so. Do you have any legal standing to say something?

FESSLER: Well, it depends on where you live because the laws are different from state to state as all election laws are. And in a lot of places, any voter can challenge another voter if - their eligibility if they have reason to believe - maybe they know that the person actually lives in another state. Again, they can't confront the voter directly. They need to go to the election official and say, look, I really want to challenge this voter because I don't think they're eligible to vote.

MARTIN: So let's take the other side of the coin. For a lot of other people, the concern is voter suppression that some voters are being prevented from voting because their registrations are being challenged or they don't have the right ID. how widespread a concern is this? And is there something voters can do about that?

FESSLER: We've had a lot of changes since 2012, a lot of new ID laws, a lot of other requirements. There's been a lot of legal action, so things are very confusing. So I think it's very important for a voter to know before they go to the polling place what kind of ID do I have to bring? Do I have to bring ID? They should also know if their registration is accurate. You can do that online in a lot of places. You should check so that when you get to the polling place, there's a less likelihood that you're going to have any kind of a problem.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Pam Fessler. Pam, thanks so much.

FESSLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.