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Why You Should Make Your Voting Plans Now

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Americans who want to vote this fall should make a plan, including what to do if something goes wrong—such as their requested mailed-out ballot does not arrive or is late—according to a range of election experts and grassroots activists.

"Pre-pandemic, we could all stop at the grocery store without having to think about it. Now we all have to make a plan," said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. "Similarly, voters are going to need to make a plan that they haven't necessarily had to do before."

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How Ballot Drop Boxes Can Protect Voters — And Voting Rights -- During Pandemic

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

As 2020's pandemic primaries continue into mid-July, there has been a recurring pattern of poll worker shortages, last-minute poll closures and ensuing congestion for in-person voting—even as record numbers of voters cast mailed-out ballots in those same states.

Yet one relatively inexpensive countermeasure has not yet been widely used to smooth polling place voting, at least not yet, due to a mix of administrative hurdles and partisan obstruction. That remedy is drop boxes—akin to mailboxes—that can safely and securely accept and hold hundreds to several thousand ballot envelopes.

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Recruiting Poll Workers Can Thwart Trump’s Attacks On Our Voting Rights

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

In 2000, Ion Sancho had a front-row seat to the partisan mayhem and legal posturing surrounding Florida's presidential recount. The Florida Supreme Court asked Sancho, then supervisor of elections in Florida's capital, to be its technical adviser—second in charge—of overseeing the recount, which the U.S. Supreme Court abruptly halted in its Bush v. Gore decision, elevating George W. Bush to the presidency.

As the U.S. heads toward 2020's general election amid a pandemic and President Trump's continued attacks on voting from home, Sancho has been reviewing trends from the resumed primaries and sees both how Trump and the GOP are positioning the party for another court-decided electoral outcome—and the single remedy that would frustrate those plans.

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Looming Election Challenge: Mail Ballots That Never Reach Voters

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

After a poorly attended rally in Tulsa and falling support in opinion polls, President Trump has renewed his false attacks on mail-in voting.

But as states keep encouraging voting from home in response to the pandemic and 2020's primaries and runoffs continue, a recurring election administration problem may be playing into Trump's myths about Democrats voting more than once.

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Tech Glitches Plague An Already Chaotic Primary Season

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Washington, D.C.'s primary election on June 2 experienced many obstacles: Police officers told voters waiting in line that they were violating a curfew; the protests against police violence continued throughout the city; and fears of the spread of COVID-19 remained. One less-well-known primary breakdown happened when the city's high-tech tools intended to help people vote failed, according to a preliminary report from the D.C. Board of Elections.

"The Vote4DC Mobile App proved incompatible with various types of mobile devices used by some voters. The application's vendor was unable to triage and correct the problems," the June 16 report's executive summary said. It added, "Many voters who timely completed their ballot requests could not track the status of their ballots. This led to understandable confusion and frustration."

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Red Flags Signaled Trouble In Georgia’s Awful Primary

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The signs kept coming that Georgia's June 9 primary would not go well. On the last day of early voting, the Friday before the election, Jon Ossoff, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, waited for more than three hours to vote on Atlanta's west side. It took Nikema Williams, the Georgia Democratic Party chair and a state senator from the city, more than five hours—on her wedding anniversary.

On the night before he voted, Ossoff told supporters that Fulton County in metro Atlanta had lost thousands of emailed requests for absentee ballots. That revelation suggested that voters who had never received their mail-in ballot would likely show up at what were fewer in-person polling places—reduced in number in response to an exodus of poll workers in the pandemic, and due to calls by officials to vote by mail. But Ossoff's news hinted at deeper dysfunctions.

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June 2 Primaries Offered Sneak Peek At November Election

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

More in-person voting sites in metro areas. Better information about where polls have been relocated. More public education about how to vote from home and what to do if an absentee ballot doesn't arrive—or arrives at the last minute. And no last-minute government decisions that confuse voters and undermine voting, such as imposing curfews before the polls close.

These are some of the takeaways from the nine presidential primaries that took place on June 2, the largest day of voting across America since the pandemic broke in mid-March, where most of the states and the District of Columbia responded by shifting to voting with mailed-out ballots rather than voting centered on local polling places as in previous elections.

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'Uncharted Territory’ With Elections Stressed By Pandemic And Protests

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The nine presidential primaries on June 2 occurred under crisis conditions not seen in America in 50 years—not since 1968, when protests, crackdowns and violence surrounded the presidential election—according to field reports from voting rights lawyers and advocacy groups.

Non-white voters in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Pittsburgh said that they were intimidated but persevering to cast ballots inside municipal buildings that were also local police headquarters—some of them the same police departments that have been using excessive force to break up protests surrounding George Floyd's death.

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Time Is Running Out For Mail Balloting In June 2 Primary States

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

In Pennsylvania, a presidential swing state that will hold primary elections on June 2, some election officials and voters are already expressing concern that time is running out to handle a historic jump to voting from home in the pandemic—possibly disenfranchising many voters.

Tuesday, May 26—one week before the primary—was the last day for voters to request a mail-in ballot. But "thousands of Pennsylvania voters might not get their ballots in time to actually vote," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Local election officials had been working "16 hours a day to try to keep up" with processing ballot applications, the Inquirer reported, even as the mayor redeployed city workers to help.

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Why Absentee Voting Is A Nationwide Challenge

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

More than 30 statewide elections will be held in the 91 days from May 19 to August 18, previewing how unfamiliar or difficult absentee voting may be across America this fall.

The next big test is June 2, when eight states and the District of Columbia hold their presidential primaries. Despite President Trump's claims that absentee voting cannot be trusted, red-run states (Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota) holding primaries that day have more experience with voting by mail and voters dropping off ballots at polling places than blue states and territories (Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and D.C.). Only one state in this group, purple Montana, has held an election where most people voted absentee.

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Are We Headed Toward Another Bush-Gore Impasse In November 2020?

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

With six months to go until November's 2020 election, dozens of America's top legal minds convened to consider what would have been unthinkable before Donald Trump's presidency. They gathered to brainstorm what could be done to prevent the country from descending into a "civil war-like scenario," as one participant put it, if Trump and Joe Biden both claim that they won the presidency-and won't back down.

Their May 4 teleconference parsed a series of nightmare scenarios in the aftermath of the November 3 election that would lead to competing Electoral College results being sent to Congress from battleground states-one issued by a Republican legislature backing Trump, and another issued by the Democratic governor backing Biden.

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Ohio Primary Raises New Election Worry: Rejected Provisional Ballots

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Ohio's Democratic presidential primary winner was never in doubt, but its voting process was.

The April 28 primary, the second statewide vote-by-mail contest since the pandemic interrupted the 2020 election, highlighted new complexities facing voters if the nation shifts to mostly absentee voting this fall.

In addition to postal delivery delays possibly disqualifying hundreds of thousands of ballots—as was seen in Wisconsin's April 7 primary—Ohio's saw legally registered voters who waited until the eleventh hour to vote wrestle with the vote-by-mail process and get prevented from casting a ballot that would be counted.

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In Some Red States, Partisan Officials Blocking Mail Ballots

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Across America, election officials responsible for the details of running elections have a clear idea of what is needed to shift to mostly mail-in voting in upcoming spring, summer and fall elections to protect voters from the coronavirus. But pockets of conservatives are resisting their advice.

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New Voting Rights Battles Erupting In Key Swing States

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

When the 2020 election season resumes in Ohio on April 28 and continues in nearly half of the states through July, Americans will see if new voting regimens instituted in response to the pandemic will help voters or preview state-by-state partisan battles over voter turnout.

Already there are troubling signs that the past decade's voter suppression battles will continue and accelerate in battleground states. Wisconsin's April 7 primary, the month's only presidential contest that was not postponed by the pandemic, is exhibit A. However, as 24 states and territories will hold primaries and caucuses in coming weeks, and other elections this summer, Republicans in some states are already tilting the rules and means of voting to favor their base in the fall.

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Why Another New Voting System Caused Trouble On Super Tuesday

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

On the biggest day of the 2020 presidential season so far, Super Tuesday, America's biggest new voting system—in Los Angeles County—widely frustrated voters and poll workers in its debut in a jurisdiction that's more populous than 39 states.

Though the county had offered 11 days of early voting for the first time and spent millions to promote its new multilingual, user-friendly, part-paper and part-digital system, voters overwhelmed pinch points on Super Tuesday. Thus, as seen in other presidential contests in 2020, hours-long waits to vote repeatedly surfaced.

Voting Booth witnessed many possible reasons behind the delays. Inside the regional voting centers (replacing precincts) where any county resident could vote, technical problems shadowed the steps in the process. At the check-in desks, electronics linking iPads to voter rolls had connectivity problems. That difficulty slowed down the intake process, where poll workers were also juggling paperwork surrounding new same-day voter registration and changing one's political party.

By noon, county officials were telling national media that 20 percent of the machinery in the next step in the process—the sleek, user-friendly consoles that ran in many languages (using different alphabets) and thousands of local ballot styles—were not operating or were sidelined. At numerous precincts, poll workers were seen making adjustments to accommodate a steady trickle of voters over much of the day.

After 5 p.m., that trickle became a torrent. Voters, many of whom said that they hadn't thought of voting early and expected to quickly vote, found themselves in long lines that lasted an hour, 90 minutes, or more. Many centers—in low-income, middle-class and well-off neighborhoods—had to stay open until 10 p.m. to accommodate voters. Many people stayed in line, even after media organizations declared winners. But others could be seen leaving in frustration without casting a ballot.

It would not be fair to say that Los Angeles' debut was a complete failure. For many voters who did not experience delays or technical snafus, the most visible parts of the county's new system received high marks. Its check-in process, using iPads to look up a voter's registration information and then printing a single sheet of paper with a QR code (a dot-matrix-filled square), was not complex. Voters took that paper sheet and easily slid it into a ballot-marking console, where their choices came up on a touch screen. It ended up printing out their ballots after repeatedly asking voters to verify its accuracy. Voters said that they were pleased, even if poll workers helped them. Voters with disabilities said it was easy to use. Others liked that their ballots went into a semi-transparent bin.

However, there is an emerging national trend and red flag as the country looks to the fall's presidential, congressional and statewide elections. As new voting systems have debuted during the past month (in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, Los Angeles, and other Super Tuesday states such as North Carolina), the newest systems have tended to have some mix of delaying the process, frustrating voters and slowing reported results.

That emerging pattern suggests that voters seeking a change in officeholders next fall are facing a new layer of impediments atop older structural barriers—whether gerrymanders, strict voter ID laws, and other GOP-led restrictive voting options, rules and deadlines. If those older barriers collectively amounted to a 10 percent starting line advantage for the GOP among the most reliable voters to turn out in swing districts and swing states, the catalog of snafus shadowing the newest voting systems may raise that hurdle.

Whether effective investigations and remedial measures will be undertaken in the weeks ahead—starting with examining the operating logs on every machine that failed—is the key question. Beyond apologies and future assurances from election officials, the next test of whether those snafus could be fixed, or would likely recur in the fall, are local elections to be held this spring and summer—the next time this infrastructure is used.

In other forthcoming 2020 presidential primaries, where new voting systems will be used in some counties in swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania, it remains to be seen if problems that cropped up elsewhere will recur. While some of these issues have to be solved by technology experts, it's important to note that election officials need to pay greater attention to the public's inclinations and behavior.

In Los Angeles County, many voters, for whatever reasons, didn't choose to vote early. The same voting centers that sat empty for days were overwhelmed on Super Tuesday. Just because a system is designed a certain way, doesn't mean its users will do so. The voting systems debuting now will be with counties and states for years to come. But given the stakes of 2020's elections, there's little time left to fine-tune them.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Debut Of South Carolina’s Flawed New Voting System Is A Red Flag

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

When election officials in Richland County, South Carolina, where the state capital of Columbia is located, opened 152 polling places for the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary on February 29, they held their breath.

Richland County, a blue epicenter in a red state, has had a rough time with elections. Like other counties during this past decade, uncounted votes went unnoticed until gaps in oversight were corrected. But on primary day, elections officials—from those managing countywide logistics to volunteers working polls in schools, libraries, churches and firehouses—were hoping for a smooth start as a new generation of voting machines was debuting across their county and state.

South Carolina's all-new voting system was the first that debuted nationally in 2020. It had three stages: a check-in desk as before; a new touch screen computer console where the voter would make their choices and a ballot summary sheet would be printed out; and a new scanner where that ballot card's votes would be counted. Last summer, the state bought these components from Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the nation's biggest voting system vendor, for $51 million.

The new voting machines were simple to use and explain to voters. But they also were not trouble-free. By mid-afternoon, many precincts across Richland County saw one-in-five or one-in-six of its new ES&S devices experience a technical failure. Because the primary was a low-turnout contest with slightly above 20 percent of registered voters turning out (the state's Republicans opted not to have a 2020 presidential primary), the poll managers quickly adapted and kept the voting expeditious and cordial.

Voters did not appear to notice too many interruptions. But officials did as touch screens froze, unprinted ballot cards were spat out, and scanners repeatedly jammed. These issues were atop other concerns noted, such as inadequate privacy screens surrounding touch screens, conflicting instructions from ES&S on which side of the ballot card was to be scanned, and the portable touch screen's awkward shape for curbside voting in cars to assist voters with disabilities.

The rollout of the new machinery across Richland County was a reminder that getting voting to work well is often dependent on the system's designers and managers making the right decisions—at the key decision points—in the process. As primary day voting unfurled in one of South Carolina's largest metro areas, it did not pass that test—promoting questions about what caused it and what could be done before voting next fall.

"It would seem to me that we have seen significant device failure, not so much as to cause problems with running an election, but significant failure for brand-new equipment. The question is what caused it," said Duncan Buell, one of five Richland County Voter Registration and Elections Commission members and chair of the University of South Carolina's computer science and engineering department in Columbia.

Buell is among a handful of computer scientists nationally who have studied ES&S for years and has focused on how its systems tally votes. He had just spent five hours visiting 20 precincts, where he talked to clerks, poll workers, and voters and saw the problems—even writing down the serial numbers of sidelined machines to be examined later.

"We know we have a problem," he said. "We do not know about the cause."

There were clues. But South Carolina's statewide debut of a new voting system—the first state among a handful to do so in 2020—is more than a cautionary tale. It was the latest example, following the Democratic Party's presidential caucuses in Iowa and Nevada, that deploying new voting technology can be unexpectedly marred.

A Hopeful Start

Early voting in South Carolina's Democratic primary began several weeks before at county offices in downtown Columbia. But the big test came on February 29 with precinct voting. The county had supplemented training materials provided by the state, which bought the voting system, programmed its ballot design and distributed supplies including the ballot paper to be used in the marking devices and scanners.

At local precincts, where most of the clerks and managers (their term for poll workers) were women with years of experience working polls, there was an expectation that voters would have to be walked through the new system. Nell Killoy, the clerk at Meadowfield Elementary School, was prepared. She helped an elderly man who came in after 10 a.m.

"So, slide it in, and it will pull it in for you," Killoy said, after handing him a long narrow sheet of paper to put into a slot in a ballot-marking console—ES&S's ExpressVote—that was dominated by a large touch screen. "Once it takes the paper, you will see your ballot," she continued. "Today, there's only one election we're voting in. So these are your choices."

On the screen were 12 presidential candidates—five of whom had already left the race. It took Killoy less than a minute to explain what to do. But the voter had a question. Should he slide his ballot into the scanner face up or face down? Killoy replied face down, for privacy—even though some ES&S materials had said face up.

Once he left with his ballot and headed for the scanner across the gym, she turned to Buell and quietly raised another privacy issue. The ExpressVote's computer screen—with the voter's selections—could be read from several feet away.

"We're trying to get creative about buying privacy screens," Buell replied, referring to the folded cardboard enclosures that partly encircle the ballot-marking device (BMD). He was exploring whether local businesses could provide an alternative to ES&S's options.

Buell had only begun his site visits across Richland County's southern tier. Before he finished, he would hear other poll managers bring up the privacy issue. He would also receive phone calls from national groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters asking whether the new scanners were properly reading the ballot cards—due to ambiguity about which side should face up. (He believed it didn't matter.)

At other precincts, clerks improvised to address some of these concerns. At one Richland County Library branch, precinct clerk Kimberly Richards, who teaches government at a Christian K-12 school, solved the privacy issue by lining up the BMDs so all the touch screens faced the wall—not the room's center. She praised the new machinery, compared to an older ES&S system they replaced.

"This is a dream compared to the nightmares of those other machines," she said, saying the replaced equipment took too long to set up, was heavy to move and had rickety legs that children would pull on. "The only thing with this, we made sure that we turned everything around for privacy."

While talking to Buell, a trickle of voters walked from one side of the room to the other to carry their ballot card to the scanner. Nobody appeared to be checking if the printout was correct before putting it into the scanner. When asked if voters were verifying their ballots, Richards said, "I haven't seen that… It's a robotic thing. Come in. Punch the button. [Then leave, thinking,] 'Okay, we're good.'"

At other precincts, voters were pleased to see a mix of paper ballots and touch screens.

"I thought the machines were super," said a woman trying to sign up people for the local Democratic Party's meetings. "I loved the machines. I feel like they were as safe as you can get. What do y'all think?"

"I'm a computer scientist who believes that we should get absolutely as much technology out of our elections systems as we possibly can," replied Buell, who introduced himself. "Because those devices can be hacked. They can be misconfigured. Interesting enough, there was a Twitter post this morning that said that hand sanitizer [in response to the coronavirus] will smudge the [printed ballot] paper and make it unreadable."

"I wonder if that's true," she said.

"It probably is, because it's thermal paper and printing on thermal," he replied.

But this voter was pleased with the new system.

"And I just feel that to do a duplicate paper ballot somewhere that presumably will be stored for some period of time is good," she added.

"If that's used for any purpose," Buell replied, drawing a quizzical look. "If there's some question or if there's a check. Does the paper actually match up with the results?"

His point was that the underlying ballot records and voting data were only useful if they became part of a routine process of verifying votes and fine-tuning the process.

"It couldn't hurt," she replied. "There's no downside to doing it."

Equipment Failures

By midday, a more disturbing trend emerged. At many precincts, at least one machine—either the ballot-marking device or the scanner (ES&S's DS200 model) that counted the ballot summary's votes, or, both machines, were malfunctioning in different ways.

By the time that Buell finished his rounds of 20 of the county's 152 precincts, every fifth or sixth new machine had a problem. The ballot-markers prematurely spat out the paper used to print summary cards or their computer screens had frozen up. The scanners had paper jams. A few poll managers told Buell that they had broken the seals to get inside the bin below the scanning apparatus to pull the paper ballot out of its jam.

"This is $51 million of new equipment," Buell said, after the sixth consecutive precinct with an equipment issue. "We should see minimal failures. We should be seeing one or two across the county, not one every precinct. This really is not a good sign."

Buell finished his site visits by checking in with Terry Graham, Richland County's Voter Registration & Elections interim director. Back at the county office, Graham was behind his desk juggling phones. He had a legal pad filled with notes about different precincts.

"Yeah, a similar pattern across the county," Graham said, putting down the phone and reeling off possible causes—what his staff had narrowed down as likely causes.

The state's vendor that supplied ballot-printing paper had used a heavier card stock for the first time—maybe causing the jams. Poll workers may not have been properly closing a bar on the scanner. The thumb drives installed in the ExpressVote BMD to program the ballot style had been mass-copied (this was a simple ballot—just one race) and may have been prematurely removed from a programming dock. Some poll managers hadn't used these machines before, despite several trainings.

After leaving the building, Buell said extreme skepticism was called for. If one new machine was not properly working in each of the county's precincts, that would be nearly a half-million dollars in gear that was underperforming in its first major test, he said. But, compared to earlier ES&S systems, there were more robust computer records on each machine that could be examined to find out what had happened.

"I don't think we know until we start looking at the event logs and start comparing notes with other counties," Buell said. "We have 45 other counties [in the state]. Let's see what they had. For the places that had these kinds of errors, would there be any commonality?"

On primary day, February 29, Buell said that it was too early to call anyone to get a larger perspective about the statewide debut of ES&S's new system—not on an Election Day. But he was hoping to get some answers—with an eye to correcting them in a few local elections to be held later this spring. When asked if primary day was an example of growing pains or a learning curve that accompanies any new system, he was clear.

"I'd call it a device failure," he said. "When it doesn't work, it's a failure."

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

Powerful New Film Documents 2018 Voter Suppression In Georgia

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

As the 2020 presidential campaign cycle grinds on, there's renewed concern about the 21st century's newest form of warfare: cyber-sabotage of government systems, including elections and online disinformation intended to incite unrest. But as Suppressed: The Fight to Vote, a documentary from Brave New Films, makes clear, partisan voter suppression tactics with 20th-century roots remain and can thwart multitudes of voters from changing their state's political leaders.

Suppressed: The Fight to Vote revisits the most visibly unfair election of 2018: the race for Georgia's governor between Republican Brian Kemp—then Georgia secretary of state and supervisor of its election apparatus—and Democrat Stacey Abrams, an ex-state legislative leader and voting rights activist who led one of the most vibrant grassroots campaigns seen in Georgia in many years.

The election, which put Kemp in the governor's seat and which Abrams did not concede, is a showcase of how legal technicalities and opaque bureaucracy ended up discouraging, disqualifying, and disenfranchising purple-state voters who sought a regime change.

"Pull back that veneer [of legal but opaque rules and officials who didn't help voters], and you see something really rotten happening," Carol Anderson, chair of African American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, says as the film opens. "It's almost like termites coming in. They're in the wood. They're eating the wood away. And you don't even realize your house is getting ready to collapse until it's almost too late."

Suppressed's storyline starts earlier in the decade. In 2013, a GOP-appointed majority on the Supreme Court gutted the core enforcement provision in the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Its opinion said that racism in American society had passed. Thus, states and counties that had histories of racial discrimination in elections no longer needed to have any change in election laws and procedures vetted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

As Suppressed and many voting rights groups have noted, numerous red-run states that play outsized roles in national elections quickly implemented mundane-sounding, overly bureaucratic—but, as Anderson says, "lethal"—rules to suppress Democratic voting blocs. (The documentary cites Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Kansas, North Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia as targets of suppression.)

This history has been told before, but there is an undeniable power with seeing the faces and hearing the words of people who personally bore the brunt of a menu of suppressive tactics—people who are predominantly non-white. One cannot help but note that race and party are almost always synonymous in Georgia, as they are across much of America.

The documentary follows a chronology that peels back layers of GOP-led suppressive tactics, starting with those that laid a foundation for disqualifying Democratic voters. These include efforts to close longtime polling places in predominantly black and lower-income neighborhoods in locales such as Randolph County, Georgia, which, in a rare glimmer of hope, saw the local populace reverse those poll closures. "The incident that we experienced threw the spotlight on everything else that had been going on," Bobby Jenkins, a retired superintendent of schools, said. As the film notes, since 2012, Georgia has closed 214 polling places, with 75 percent of closed polls in African American communities.

The "everything else" that Jenkins refers to begins with the starting line of the voting process for individuals: voter registration. The voices of people who were infrequent voters but who received postcards saying that they could be taken off of county rolls followed. That little-understood process of purging rolls is legal, but not mandatory, under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. Nonetheless, the intended recipients were confused, including seniors who started voting in the 1950s civil rights and the 1960s voting rights movements.

When these Georgians and others submitted more than 53,000 paper registration forms to county officials working under Kemp—instead of going online to register or to update their voter file information—they later found out that there was no state law requiring their applications be processed before the election that they wanted to vote in—2018's governor's race. That fall, crowds of otherwise eligible voters did not get a ballot.

There were other disqualifying moves that were legal but unethical. Thousands of infrequent voters were removed from official rolls because they hadn't voted recently. Other voters were delisted because there were discrepancies in the spelling of their names in the state's databases—notably driver's license records did not match voter registration files. Other people were delisted if their mailing address and the address on their voter registration (their domicile for voting purposes) wasn't the same—including soldiers in overseas war zones.

Again and again, the vast majority of those affected were from communities of color, not Georgia's better-off white communities. One can argue, as Republicans have, that it is a voter's responsibility to know the fine print of the process and to satisfy it. But the film makes clear that county election boards following Kemp's directives were not offering customer service to voters—or, later, helping voters to cast ballots that got counted.

Similar barriers were seen with people seeking to vote by mail, but who never received an absentee ballot. The film notes that more than 280,000 people wanted to vote by mail, but "tens of thousands did not receive them." The documentary has people recounting their phone calls to local election officials, who, in turn, replied that their request for an absentee ballot had been received, but they didn't know where their ballot was.

The hurdles kept coming. When it came to voting in precincts on Election Day, many precincts in communities of color did not have enough voting machines compared to precincts in white communities. That shortage, atop delays caused when people learned that they weren't listed on voter rolls—and protested—caused long lines to form. Many voters had to wait for hours. In some cases, people had to leave to take care of their family members or go to work.

When voters who were not on the rolls insisted on voting, they were given provisional ballots. These are ballots that combine registration information with a regular ballot. But the state requires those voters to return to county election offices within a few days with other ID before those votes are counted. For some people, doing that means lost wages, which is akin to a modern poll tax—the 19th-century practice of forcing black people to pay to vote.

These microaggressions kept coming and cascading. The film shows the grassroots energy of Abrams' campaign, which was history-making when compared to past Georgia elections. Never before was the state poised to elect an African American woman as governor. But come election night, the results reported Kemp leading by more than 50,000 votes.

Abrams would not concede the race. (Afterward, her advocacy group, Fair Fight, filed one of the most comprehensive voting rights lawsuits in recent years to redress a catalog of suppressive tactics.) The film closes with Abrams' defiant press conference that came after post-election challenges did not find enough votes for her. Recovering 50,000 votes is unheard of in post-election challenges.

"I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election," she said. "But to watch an elected official baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people's democratic right to vote has been appalling. This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that."

Suppressed: The Fight to Vote briefly continues to make the point that these partisan suppressive tactics are not unique to Georgia. The documentary is more than a cautionary tale about voter suppression in one state that, had elections been fairer, would be politically purple as its populace has become more multiracial. The film is a reminder that in 2020 there are many ways to tilt the playing field to game election results.

Many of those suppressive tactics have been around for decades and endure because they are effective. These tactics have nothing to do with Russians or cyber-sabotage. They are as old as America itself—but the victims, as Brave New Films has shown so vividly, are ordinary Americans who believe in democracy's promise but typically are non-whites.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.