Bree Fowler writes about cybersecurity and digital privacy. Before joining CNET she reported for The Associated Press and Consumer Reports. A Michigan native, she's a long-suffering Detroit sports fan, world traveler, wannabe runner and champion baker of over-the-top birthday cakes and all-things sourdough.
Expertisecybersecurity, digital privacy, IoT, consumer tech, smartphones, wearables
Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide key statewide and congressional elections, but voting rights advocates are worried that disinformation campaigns and fear of violence will keep some voters home.
Why it matters
The disinformation, threats and intimidation directly stem from the "Big Lie," baseless claims that the 2020 presidential race was stolen through some kind of fictitious voter fraud. The lies have needlessly stoked anger and cast doubt on the election process.
Election Protection, a coalition of voting and civil rights groups, will be on the ground through Election Day to help voters who have questions or run into problems. Thousands of volunteer lawyers will be staffing their hotline, which can be reached at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
With just days to go before the 2022 midterms and races tightening across the country, voting rights activists are keeping a close eye on polling stations and drop boxes, making sure that every eligible voter is able to exercise their rights on Tuesday.
Worries have mounted over the last few weeks that certain groups — especially people of color and other marginalized communities — could be kept from the polls this year by both disinformation campaigns and concerns about possible political violence.
The threat is a direct result of the "Big Lie," baseless claims that the 2020 presidential race was stolen through some kind of fictitious voter fraud, needlessly stoking anger and casting doubt on the election process. Those false claims, and the actions that they've driven, could have a material impact on the election.
Election workers in many parts of the country say they're increasingly worried about the safety of both themselves and voters, as armies of election deniers have descended on municipal offices and voting locations, demanding to see voting equipment, taking pictures and video to document what they perceive as "anomalies" in preparation for potential post-election court challenges. The Republican National Committee has already filed at least 75 lawsuits related to the 2022 midterms.
All of that combined may be enough to keep some voters at home on Election Day at a time when the deck may be already stacked against some of them, voting rights advocates say.
Over the past two years, disinformation campaigns, efforts to decertify the last presidential election and a wave of new state laws that disproportionately impact people of color, have amounted to modern-day voter suppression, says Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
In response, Hewitt's group and several others joined together under the umbrella organization Election Protection, and are mobilizing to protect voter rights.
The voting and civil rights groups are staffing hotlines, providing advice in multiple languages, that voters can call if they feel they're unfairly being denied their right to vote or otherwise intimidated. With early voting underway in many states, Election Protection, as of Wednesday, has so far filled 11,000 volunteer shifts with attorneys, Hewiit says.
"This is about more than a single vote or a single election," Hewitt said during an Election Protection conference call Wednesday with the press. "It's about the voice and vitality of the people we serve."
The main Election Protection voter hotline can be reached at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Additional resources, including hotline numbers for voter help in multiple languages, can be found on the group's website.
Know what you need to vote. Some states require identification. Others may require ID or other proof of residence if you're voting for the first time. Know before you go.
Know your rights at the polls. If you're in line when the polls close, you can still vote. If the voting machines go down, stay in line and ask for a paper ballot, says Pam Smith, president and CEO of Verified Voting. And if you make a mistake, you have the right to ask for a new ballot.
What if your name is not on the poll's list of voters? Spell out your name to make sure that the poll worker is getting it right, the ACLU advises. Ask the poll worker to double check that you're at the right voting location. If you are, ask the poll worker if there's a supplemental list of voters, or if there's a statewide database they can check.
If they still can't find your name, you're still entitled to a provisional ballot. This lets you vote, then officials will investigate later to find out if you're entitled to vote. If you are, your vote will be counted.
What counts as voter intimidation? While observers are allowed at polling locations, they are not allowed to aggressively question voters about their citizenship, criminal record or other qualifications to vote. People are also barred from falsely representing themselves as election officials or spreading false information about voting requirements.
What if I have a disability or struggle with English? Polling locations are required to be accessible for people with physical disabilities or other mobility issues. Voters with disabilities and who have difficulty reading or writing English also have the right to receive in-person help from the person of their choice, with some restrictions, the ACLU says.
Need help? If you're turned away from the polls, denied a provisional ballot, or feel you've been subjected to voter intimidation, call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Cases of voter intimidation should also be reported to local election officials.