Democracy Defended

Lessons Learned from the 2022 Midterm Elections and the Path Ahead for the 2024 Election

A Model of Year-Round, Integrated Advocacy

Protecting the right to vote has been a core mission of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) since its founding in 1940. Following the 2000 elections, LDF joined with fellow civil rights organizations to launch the nonpartisan Election Protection network and 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. In tandem with these efforts, LDF later launched its Prepared to Vote (PTV) initiative to provide nonpartisan voter education and on-the-ground election monitoring and advocacy during elections. In 2020, LDF launched the Voting Rights Defender (VRD) project, a companion effort of PTV, to enhance year-round advocacy to expand voting access, invest in sustained partnerships, and broaden multi-tactic advocacy efforts to protect and expand voting rights in target states.  

2022 Midterm Elections — Lessons Learned

In 2022, LDF conducted civic engagement, election monitoring, and advocacy efforts in seven southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. As identified through the monitoring and advocacy work during these elections, limitations on the ability of Black voters to access the ballot and have their votes counted remained a prominent factor in U.S. elections. In addition to voter intimidation and election sabotage threats, LDF and our partners observed many obstacles that made it harder for Black voters to vote. This report incorporates just some of the data points and observations conveyed during elections in LDF’s target states in 2022. It also reflects lessons informed by these findings and key takeaways from prior Democracy Defended reports that can position civil rights advocates to engage strategically to support voters in 2024 and beyond.

Through the Prepared to Vote/Voting Rights Defender initiatives, LDF works to defend and advance the rights of Black voters and the promise of a free and fair democracy through the full life cycle of the political process.

Top Issues during the 2022 Election

Voting Infrastructure and Administration Problems

Issues concerning voting infrastructure and administration permeated the midterm elections in each of LDF’s target states. Monitors observed polling locations with barriers for seniors and voters with disabilities, poor signage identifying polling locations, insufficient supplies of voting materials at polling locations, and technology failures.

Limited Availability of Voting Options

The availability of multiple voting options continues to be significant for Black political participation. The lack of mail-in and early voting options in several states increased the need for voters to vote on Election Day, leading to long lines and heightened opportunities for disenfranchisement due to voting administration and process failures. Expansion of early voting options in some states, including South Carolina, where early voting was available to voters for the first time, reduced pressures on Election Day and improved access to the ballot box.

Confusion about Nonpartisan Monitor Role

Poll workers in multiple states improperly restricted LDF monitors and other nonpartisan volunteers who were wearing apparel with nonpartisan messaging from being within the no-electioneering zone around the polling place. These issues arose due to incorrect interpretations of electioneering rules and poor training of poll workers.

Poor Transparency in Poll Site Changes

The process for poll site selection varies across states and many states failed to effectively communicate poll site information to voters. Poll site listings in many states remain decentralized, resulting in unreliable information and voter confusion. Moreover, the lack of transparency makes it difficult to track patterns of discriminatory changes and closures in Black communities.

2022 Impact By the Numbers

Voters reached by mail
0
Polling sites visited across target states
0 +
Voters reached through text message
0
Volunteer trainings conducted
0 +
Local partner organizations collaborated with in target states
0 +

State Reports

Alabama 2022

In 2022, the Alabama team addressed issues with poll site changes and transparency in advance of Election Day and dispatched volunteers during the primary and general elections to observe challenges at the polls. Issues ranged from poor signage to considerable issues with accessibility and more. 

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age Population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0 +
cities reached
0 +
poll sites visited
0 +
poll site reports submitted
0 +
of reports indicating “no issues” – meaning that when the reports were submitted, the poll sites showed no barriers to voting.
0 %

Hotline Reports

During the Primary election on May 24, 2022, and the General election on November 8, 2022, the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline received over 550 calls from 35 counties. Most issues reported through the hotline were related to voter registration and absentee ballot status. These issues encompassed those reported by our volunteers, including misinformation.

Field Reports

The top issues reported by monitors were accessibility and signage, which were oftentimes intertwined. Parking concerns also recurred across sites, which also often implicated accessibility or lack of signage to designate reserved accessible spots.

Polling location in Alabama. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Issues on Election Day

SIGNAGE

Signage issues were reported in nearly all poll site issue checklists submitted.

Many of the reported signage issues cited problems with directional signage. This included issues with volunteers having difficulty locating the polling location from the street, but also instances in which it was hard to find the poll site entrance from the parking lot. Many sites were in large multi-purpose buildings, and the lack of signage indicating where voters should go to cast their ballots proved to be a significant impediment during the elections.

ACCESSIBILITY

Volunteers reported accessibility issues in almost every poll site issue checklist.

The reported signage and accessibility issues were often intertwined. A majority of the poll site reports that referenced accessibility issues concerned with signs that incorrectly directed voters to inaccessible entrances. In addition, the accessibility issues revolved around inaccessible poll site entrances and lack of parking, i.e., poll sites often lacked curb cuts and ramps that allowed voters who use wheelchairs to access the polling locations.

Issue Spotlight

Labeled and Accessible Parking

The most common parking issue identified was no designated parking spaces for voters, especially at polling locations that were open to the public for other purposes on Election Day. This caused voters to park in areas that were not designated for parking. Monitors also observed that even at polling locations with an open lot, or open spaces, there often was no signage to indicate that any parking, including accessible parking, was specifically available to voters.

Some voters with disabilities had no available designated parking spots, or there were no designated spots left at congested parking lots.

A voter with a walker is forced to walk over grass to access the pathway to a poll site after a car parked illegally in the area designated for accessible vehicle ramps and lifts next to reserved accessible parking spots on Nov. 8, 2022, Jefferson County, Ala. (Photo by volunteer)

Advocacy Spotlight

Uniform Pollsite Information

In the lead up to the November 2022 midterm elections in Alabama, LDF, along with our partner organizations, determined that the lack of accurate, uniform, and comprehensive polling place information available to voters was a significant barrier to voting that particularly disenfranchised Black voters and other voters of color.

Under state law, Alabama has a duty to notify voters of their polling locations by publishing a list of poll sites. However, some counties failed to publish anything online, while others published information that was inaccurate, contradictory, and at times so seriously lacking in relevant detail as to not meaningfully inform voters of their polling locations.  We reviewed poll site information published by county officials in over a fifth of Alabama counties and found that, among those counties with a Black population greater than 50%, each county lacked a precinct list, poll site map, and an interactive poll locator tool to enable voters to learn their voting location based on their address. 

We sent a letter to the Alabama Secretary of State urging him to publish a comprehensive list of poll site locations and precinct information for each county so that Alabamians could have accurate and up-to-date information on their correct polling place on Election Day. We also requested that he issue guidance to each county’s election officials on the requirement that any poll site closures or changes comply with Alabama and federal laws. The Secretary of State, however, shirked his responsibility to oversee election administration by stating the duty to publish polling location information falls on county officials.  

State and local advocates are now directing efforts toward future changes that would ensure all Alabamians have access to information on where to vote. LDF will continue to join partners in advocating for transparency in poll site selection and information. 

"...among those counties with a Black population greater than 50%, each county lacked a precinct list, poll site map, and an interactive poll locator tool to enable voters to learn their voting location based on their address."  

Two voters wait in line at the Rangedale Community Building during the presidential primary in Selma, Alabama on Super Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2020. (Photo by Joshua Lott / AFP via Getty Images)

LDF Deputy Director of Litigation Deuel Ross appears before the U.S. Supreme Court after presenting oral argument in Allen v. Milligan on Oct. 3, 2022. (Photo by Allison Shelley for LDF)

Next Up for Alabama

Mobilizing Communities Across the Black Belt

The congressional elections in 2024 will mark the first time that Black voters in Alabama will comprise the majority in two congressional districts, following LDF’s success litigating Allen v. Milligan all the way to the Supreme Court. In that case, LDF litigators and co-counsel were able to effectively argue that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act required a congressional map that provides Black voters with an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice in two districts, now enacted for the 2024 elections.

Looking Ahead, LDF and Partners will:

In 2022, the LDF team and partners in Florida recorded an overwhelming number of issues, ranging from improper voter challenges and other suppression efforts prior to Election Day, to confusing signage, long lines, and accessibility concerns once polls opened. This report provides a lens into just some of these concerns and the steps ahead. 

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age Population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0 +
cities reached
0
early voting and poll sites visited
0
poll site reports submitted
0 +
of reports indicating “no issues” – meaning that when the reports were submitted, the poll sites showed no barriers to voting.
0 %

Hotline Reports

During the Primary election on May 24, 2022, and the General election on November 8, 2022, the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline received over 2,600 calls from over 40 Florida counties. While many of the calls regarded individual voters’ questions about their registration, absentee ballots, or other individualized needs, broader issues reported included topics like malfunctioning or broken machines at poll sites.

Field Reports

The majority of poll site reports indicated no issues (75.5% of the total reports submitted). Of poll sites with reported issues, charted below, the main concerns related to signage, followed by parking, law enforcement activities, and long lines, while a variety of other miscellaneous issues rounded out the remaining issue reports.

Signage at a poll site in Florida. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Election Day Issues

SIGNAGE

When citing signage issues, most volunteers indicated inadequate Spanish-language information.

Signage proved to be a tremendous barrier for Florida voters this election season. Spanish translation is required across the state, and many of the reports regarding improper signage cited the lack of Spanish language access. In some instances where the signs had Spanish translations, the font size of the translation was significantly smaller than the English translation. Additionally, many sites did not have enough “Vote Here” signs directing voters to the polling site entrance. 

Law Enforcement Issues

Law enforcement was reported in various regions across the state.

Volunteers reported an unexpected amount of law enforcement activity at polling locations this cycle. One volunteer submitted a report noting that there was a police car idling near the poll site entrance and that around the site itself were many signs highlighting the police’s presence in the area. Police presence at poll sites can intimidate voters, which can, in turn, deter voters from casting ballots.

Issue Spotlight

Misleading Signage

Leading up to Election Day, LDF, the Okaloosa County Branch NAACP, and the NAACP Florida State Conference sent a letter to the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections expressing concern over misleading signage outside early voting locations. Temporary signs reading “Republicans Vote Here Today” were placed in the immediate vicinity of at least two early voting sites.  

Even if posted beyond the electioneering boundary, these signs created an unacceptable risk of voter confusion and violated state and local law, including prohibitions on dissemination of false information to induce others to refrain from voting. Specifically, the signs created a risk of voter confusion because they implied that Republicans and non-Republicans vote in different locations and on different days. Neither was true. The risk of confusion was also significant because the signs were similar in color and typography to the official “Vote Here” signs used by election officials.  

Due to LDF’s advocacy, the Okaloosa County Attorney arranged to remove misleading signs prior to Election Day. LDF will continue to monitor this issue in future election cycles. 

Photos: Misleading signage suggesting that only one party’s voters may cast ballots at certain sites during the early voting period in Okaloosa County, Fla. (Photo by volunteer)

Advocacy Spotlight

Responding to Voter Challenges

Voter challenges prior to the election presented a concerning threat in Florida. A member of the public submitted a frivolous mass voter challenge to the eligibility of 2,257 voters in Pinellas County. LDF sent a letter to county Supervisors of Elections (SOEs) ahead of the 30-day challenge period prior to Election Day providing recommendations for how to deal with frivolous mass voter challenges under the law. The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections followed LDF’s recommendations and rejected the challenges outright.  

The decision in Pinellas to reject this challenge was an important win and set a helpful precedent for frivolous voter challenges in Florida.

At least 14 Supervisors of Elections submitted voter challenges against at least 2,370 Florida voters during the 30-day period before Election Day defined under law. These challenges were based on information provided to the supervisors by the new Florida Office of Election Crimes indicating that certain voters were ineligible. 

The overwhelming majority of these challenges were based on past felony convictions, although a small number of challenges were based on mental incapacity, death, double-voting in past elections, or residing at a non-residential address. These challenges present a serious concern for Florida voters who may have prior felony convictions. 

A man looks at an electronic device during an event held by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) to clear the fines and fees of dozens of Florida residents with past felony convictions, in Miami on April 28, 2022. Despite the approval of a 2018 statewide amendment aimed to restore the voting rights of more than 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions, many voters remain disenfranchised because of requirements for full payment of legal obligations before voting rights restoration. (Photo by Marco Bello/AFP via Getty Images)

LDF staff election volunteers in Florida. (Photo by LDF staff)

Next Up for Florida

Countering Intimidation

Florida has been a focal point of efforts to deter and intimidate eligible voters from participating in the democratic process — both through the state’s efforts to expand the policing of elections and through voter challenges and the spread of mis- and disinformation by private actors.  

Looking Ahead, LDF and Partners will:

Facing barriers from the enactment of Georgia’s 2021 omnibus voter suppression bill, SB 202, the Georgia team pursued a range of advocacy efforts to reduce harms to voters in advance of the 2022 elections. In addition to proactive advocacy, the team and partners compiled extensive data on barriers experienced by voters at the polls.

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0 +
cities reached
0
early voting and poll sites visited
0
poll site reports submitted
0 +
of reports indicating “no issues” – meaning that when the reports were submitted, the poll sites showed no barriers to voting.
0 %

Hotline Reports

During the May 24, Nov. 8, and Dec. 6, 2022 elections the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection Hotline received over 2,500 calls from the 120 LDF target counties. Of the thousands of reports into the hotline, many were questions about individuals’ registration status or absentee ballot tracking. The others cited poll sites that opened late, voter roll purges, voting machine malfunctions and more.

Field Reports

The main trends of the issues reported by monitors visiting poll sites revolved around accessibility, parking, and signage, which were reported at comparable rates. Other miscellaneous issues made up over a quarter of issue reports, while over a third of reports submitted indicated no issues at all.

Sign describing prohibition on electioneering within 150 feet of poll site in Georgia. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Election Day Issues

PARKING

Parking issues were identified in almost all reports

Volunteers cited many instances of inadequate parking, which were intertwined with signage and accessibility issues. Often reports indicated that polling locations did not have any parking lots or designated parking spaces for voters and others highlighted sites that did not have any accessible parking. Schools served as the location for many of these poll sites, and school buses and cars that filled the parking lot for pickup and drop off blocked any designated parking for voters.

SIGNAGE

Campaign signage obstructed the view of "Vote Here" signs at many poll sites.

Like parking, signage issues highlighted other underlying inadequacies at poll sites. In addition to the frequent signage issues, e.g., the lack of directional signage to poll site entrances and accessible parking spaces, many sites had issues with electioneering. Voters reported many instances in which campaign signs blocked “Vote Here” signs, which made locating the polling places difficult.

Issue Spotlight

Polling Place Changes and Transparency

Changes in polling locations between early voting and Election Day led LDF volunteers to a handful of polling locations not operating on Election Day. This happened across the state, and each location had signage indicating the closure.

Weeks before the election, LDF filed an Open Records Request with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to receive a list of polling locations statewide but did not receive a list from the office until after the election (well past the deadline for responding to open records requests).

Signs indicating relocated polling locations in Georgia. (Photo by volunteer)

Advocacy Spotlight

Early Voting Opportunities

As a result of SB 202, the omnibus voter suppression bill enacted in Georgia in 2021, the time period for early voting in runoff elections was limited to just five mandatory days (compared to 17 mandatory days in previous elections), with discretion among county election officials to offer a limited number of additional days. The Georgia Secretary of State issued a last-minute bulletin further limiting the availability of early voting in runoff elections by prohibiting counties from exercising their discretion to offer early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26, based on an incorrect reading of state law

LDF filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Secretary’s misinterpretation of state law, which emphasized the racial disparities that would result from the Secretary’s incorrect interpretation and also educated the court on the democracy canon as a tool to interpret ambiguities in state law. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and held that counties could provide Saturday early voting.

LDF coupled this litigation with extensive letter writing efforts urging counties to exercise their discretion to offer weekend voting and sent nearly 300,000 text messages to voters in 23 counties about these opportunities.

Voters fill out paperwork before casting their ballots in a runoff election on November 26, 2022 in Decatur, Georgia. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Veronica Blalock, 70, a first time poll worker, puts out a sign for voters at Worship With Wonders Church in Marietta, Ga., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo by Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Next Up for Georgia

Mobilizing Voters Where They are

2024 is another important year for our nation’s democracy, and once again, all eyes will be on Georgia. LDF will work tirelessly to ensure Georgia’s Black voters are able to fairly access the ballot free from intimidation or voter purges and combat any effort at the local or state level to diminish Black voting power.

Looking Ahead, LDF and Partners will:

Louisiana 2022

In 2022, the Louisiana team provided voter support and poll monitoring efforts during four elections with various municipal and statewide races on the ballots. The data revealed important trends regarding issues such as poll site changes and accessibility concerns. This report sheds light on these topics and more.

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0 +
parishes reached
0
early voting and poll sites visited
0
poll site reports submitted
0 +
of reports indicating “no issues” – meaning that when the reports were submitted, the poll sites showed no barriers to voting.
0 %

Hotline Reports

Across the multiple Louisiana elections held in 2022, the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection Hotline received 228 calls from roughly half of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. While many of the calls regarded individual voters’ questions about their registration, absentee ballots, or other individualized needs, broader issues reported included topics like machine and technology issues and improper instructions from poll commissioners.

Field Reports

The main trends of the issues reported by monitors visiting polling sites revolved around accessibility and parking, which were oftentimes intertwined. These reports with accessibility issues often had to do with insufficient or lack of accessible parking.

Photo: The Nina R. Boyette polling site in Jonesville, La. (LaSalle Parish), where there is no paved parking, accessible pathway, or restroom with running water on Dec. 10, 2022. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Election Day Issues

PARKING

Parking limitations were reported for polling sites in nearly every parish monitored.

Parking proved to be a significant impediment in the voting process for all Louisianans. One monitor submitted a report where the reserved parking at a polling location was paid parking, and even those spots were occupied by law enforcement vehicles. Additionally, many of the polling locations were situated in buildings that have reserved parking spaces, which limited the availability of parking spaces for voters and made it difficult to access the poll site in a timely manner.

ACCESSIBILITY

Inaccessible entrances, parking spaces, and walkways were reported almost 100 times.

Volunteers submitted 94 reports in which poll sites had issues regarding accessibility. These came from the majority of monitored parishes. In addition to the parking issues mentioned above, many volunteers cited accessible entrances being blocked off by vehicles and instances where entrances were inaccessible due to staircases or other barriers but were nonetheless inaccurately marked accessible.

Issue Spotlight

Poll Site Changes

By the end of 2022, Louisiana implemented hundreds of changes to assigned poll sites, many of which were disproportionately located in three parishes with significant Black populations:

26

in St. Martin

31

in St. Landry

27

in Iberia

In other words, 39% of the changed poll site assignments were in parishes that represent less than 5% of Louisiana’s population.

Many of those changes were complicated—for example, in St. Martin Parish, a previous polling place was split into three new sites, all changed from the previous location.

Some changes were made within days of an election. In one severe circumstance, a poll site in Jefferson Parish had to be evacuated and relocated to a nearby site due to a bomb threat. LDF’s rapid response team sent text messages to the thousands of impacted voters about the relocation and dispatched LDF team members to the site. Later reports confirmed that the threats were not related to the election, but the impact of displacing and frightening voters remained.

LDF staff and partners stand by at the Louisiana Capitol on June 9, 2023 as then-Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signs Act 277 into law. (Photo by LDF Staff)

Poll site entrances and signage in Orleans Parish from the March 26, 2022 primary election and the Nov. 8, 2022 general election. (Photos by volunteers)

Advocacy Spotlight

Voting Accessibility

Act 277 provides for:

May 23, 2022

LDF and partners advocate for the successful passage of HCR14, a joint resolution creating a task force to study voting accessibility and report policy recommendations back to the Louisiana Legislature.

December 10, 2022

Election monitors report multiple accessibility issues during the general election, including an unstable wooden ramp at a polling site in New Orleans with a hole in the middle of the ramp.

February 10, 2023

The HCR14 Task Force publishes a report with over a dozen recommendations to improve voting accessibility.

June 9, 2023

Then Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards signs Act 277 into law, adopting multiple recommendations from the HCR14 Task Force.

LDF Senior Policy Counsel Jared Evans outside of a Louisiana polling place on Election Day on Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo by Keecee DeVenny, LDF)

Next Up for Louisiana

Maximizing Voter Participation

The Dec. 10, 2022 general election marking the sixth election held in Louisiana that year alone, with similarly packed election calendars set to marking the following calendar years — including, among other elections, the statewide election for executive and state legislative seats in 2023 and the federal election in 2024. Strained resources and voter exhaustion result from Louisiana’s endless election cycles.

Looking ahead, LDF and partners will continue to try to counteract the effects of election fatigue by:

Mississippi 2022

In 2022, less than one-third of Mississippi voters cast a ballot, among the lowest voter turnout in the nation. This low turnout is caused in part by multiple barriers: no early voting, no online voter registration, and no simple absentee ballot process. As this report captures, these barriers are compounded by other issues at the polls.

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0 +
cities reached
0
early voting and poll sites visited
0
poll site reports submitted
0 +
of reports indicating “no issues” – meaning that when the reports were submitted, the poll sites showed no barriers to voting
0 %

Hotline Reports

During the elections on June 7 and Nov. 8, 2022, the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline received 200 calls from 50 of the 82 counties in Mississippi. Of the 200 hotline reports, almost all were from individual voters who had questions about their registration status or how to locate their poll site. There were also multiple documented issues of intimidation, electioneering, machine malfunctions, and documented problems.

Field Reports

The primary issues reported by monitors revolved around accessibility and signage, which were oftentimes intertwined. Parking concerns also recurred across locations, which often included accessibility issues and lack of signage to designate reserved accessible spots.

Photo: Inaccessible entrance at the polling site at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Gluckstadt in Madison County, Miss. A poll monitor reported that there was an alternative entrance with an accessibility ramp, but no signage to direct voters there. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Election Day Issues

ACCCESSIBILITY

Many poll sites did not have accessible entrances.

Most poll sites lacked proper accessibility measures, which made it difficult for voters to access the locations. Some sites could only be reached by stairs and did not have an alternative route, while others that may have had a ramp were too steep or narrow for wheelchair users to use safely. Volunteers also reported many polling locations that did not have accessible door handles (those that can be opened with a closed fist). Finally, parking was difficult for voters who use wheelchairs. Volunteers cited many sites that had accessible parking, but in order to enter the poll sites, voters had to cross through an inaccessible grassy area or another lot.

SIGNAGE

Volunteers reported signage issues at at least one poll site in each county monitored.

Improper signage outpaced all other issues reported in the state. Volunteers documented poll sites that had zero “Vote Here” signs (which caused confusion on where to enter to vote), no signage directing voters to the accessible entrances (if there were any), and inadequate signage indicating the designated parking for voters.

Issue Spotlight

Election Supplies and Infrastructure

The lack of physical election infrastructure has been a persistent problem in Mississippi’s elections, creating issues for all voters, particularly those with disabilities. This was true of the 2022 elections as well. Throughout Election Day, poll monitors repeatedly cited lack adequate signage at polling locations across the state. Too often, signage was not visible from the street, and was not effective in directing voters to the voting location. Some sites only had one sign affixed to the door with no accompanying signage.

Many polling locations were given a single lawn sign and a single paper sign to tape on the entrance to their polling location. This caused difficulties for voters at polling sites located in a campus-style area, necessitating the need to ask for directions to the specific building and room that served as a polling location. This also caused issues for buildings that were difficult to find off main highways and roads.

At some polling locations, the lack of signage forced poll monitors to create their own signage.

Hand written signage indicating entrance to polling location in Mississippi. (Photo by volunteer)
Advocacy Spotlight

Polling Site Misinformation

In 2022, Mississippi voters continued to receive inaccurate information regarding their voting locations. In particular, many voters used the Secretary of State’s poll locator to identify their voting site, a tool that contained inaccurate voting site information—leading to confusion and disenfranchisement.

In 2021 and 2022, LDF sent the Mississippi Secretary of State letters demanding that he fix systematic misinformation in the Mississippi online poll locator that gave voters inaccurate information about their poll location. This issue affected over 65,000 voters in 2020 and persisted in the 2022 elections. As a result of LDF’s advocacy, the Secretary of State contacted county officials across the state to confirm that polling locations were accurately reported to voters. To supplement this effort, LDF sent a letter to all local officials regarding their reporting obligations and discouraging further lack of transparency with polling locations.

This effort resulted in clear publication of polling locations for Mississippi voters and reduced many closures.

Still, despite our advocacy, there were problems related to polling location misinformation on Election Day. In Precinct 45 in majority-Black Hinds County, voters were directed to the wrong polling location because the correct polling location was misidentified by the Secretary of State. LDF sent a mass text to the 2,600 voters in that precinct to inform them of the correct information.

"LDF's effort resulted in clear publication of polling locations for Mississippi voters and reduced many closures."  

LDF staff with partners at civic engagement event in Jackson, Miss. (Photo by LDF staff)

Next Up for Mississippi

FIGHTING FOR VOTER INFORMATION AND ELECTION ADMINISTRATION TRANSPARENCY

In response to the recorded challenges identifying accurate poll site information and anticipating last- minute hurdles to voting access, LDF will continue to organize around advocacy solutions to mitigate voter confusion and increase transparency of election administration decision-making and information.

Looking ahead, LDF and partners will continue to try to counteract the effects of election fatigue by:

South Carolina

The 2022 primary election in South Carolina provided many insights, especially as the first election implementing statewide early voting. LDF worked with the South Carolina Election Protection Coalition to monitor the June primary election and the November general election. This report provides a snapshot of data collected, actions taken to ameliorate issues, and steps ahead.

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the Numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0
counties reached
0
poll sites visited
0
poll site reports submitted
0

Hotline Reports

During the Nov. 8, 2022 general election, the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline received 366 calls from 33 of 46 counties across South Carolina. Similar to the field data, the majority of the reported issues referenced signage and accessibility issues, and the Election Protection Coalition, with the help of LDF attorneys, helped triage issues and support the voters who called.

Field Reports

The most prevalent voting access issues reported during the elections were related to signage, and the next most common issue was accessibility. Analysis of these reports indicated that signage and accessibility issues often originated from the same polling locations. Many causes of these issues were insufficient signage directing voters to accessible entrances, parking, or curbside voting.

Voters in Columbia, S.C. wait in line to cast their ballots on the last day of early voting. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Election Day Issues

SIGNAGE

Across over two dozen counties, volunteers submitted 83 signage issue reports.

The main signage issues were a lack of directional signage to the poll site entrance and parking. Many of the poll sites in the state are public buildings that transformed a portion of the space to accommodate voting, which meant that the site had more than one entrance. Many sites also did not have designated voter parking or signs directing voters to the reserved parking space. The lack of signage directing voters to the correct locations made it difficult to find the correct entrance and in turn made the voting experience longer than necessary.

ACCCESSIBILITY

Almost 10% of field reports submitted statewide referred to lack of accessibility at poll sites.

Many accessibility issue reports were due to a lack of access at curbside voting. Curbside voting laws require that a poll worker check outside for voters looking to vote curbside every 15 minutes. Volunteers reported that poll workers were not checking for curbside voters despite having a designated space for curbside voting. In one instance, a voter got out of their car to notify the workers that they were waiting outside. Curbside voting is supposed to limit barriers to voting for voters with disabilities, but that is only the case when the law is followed.

Issue Spotlight

Improper Enforcement of the Electioneering Boundary

Monitoring electioneering boundaries and ensuring poll workers’ proper enforcement is crucial to the work of poll monitors. In South Carolina, electioneering is defined as persons wearing or handing out any campaign materials (apparel, buttons, stickers, literature, etc.) within 200 feet of any entrance to the polling place. Often, these boundaries need to be clarified because they are not marked at poll sites, and what consists of campaign materials can be subjective.

During the fall 2022 elections, the South Carolina Election Protection Coalition received numerous calls from across the state where poll workers wrongly turned away voters for wearing “Black Lives Matter” attire. As these reports accumulated, LDF worked with the ACLU of South Carolina to call local elections administrators and alert them of the First Amendment issues this practice posed, as well as the proper definition of partisan electioneering.

Photo: This image taken Nov. 8, 2022 shows campaign signage next to the voter parking lot at the Isle of Palms Recreation Center polling site in Charleston, S.C. Photo by volunteer

Advocacy Spotlight

Equity in Early Voting Implementation

The 2022 midterms were the first election in which South Carolina implemented early voting. After a bill enacting early voting passed during the 2022 legislative session, South Carolina voters were able to vote early without an excuse during the midterms.

According to the South Carolina State Election Commission, 560,622 people, or nearly 16.5% of all registered voters, voted early during the November 2022 election.

While the turnout numbers were extraordinary, implementation of early voting was not without its shortcomings, with voters of color facing inequitable distribution of early voting locations. South Carolina law authorizes counties to designate up to seven early voting centers for an election that maximizes accessibility for all voters to the greatest extent possible. However, several counties implemented early voting plans that fell short of their statutory obligations to voters.

LDF identified inequities in early voting locations and sent rapid response letters to five counties with significant Black populations — Florence, Marion, Beaufort, Berkeley, and Orangeburg — where LDF identified additional possible early voting locations. LDF urged the local Boards of Election to provide reasonable and fair accessibility to early voting for Black voters, and to appropriately distribute locations throughout the counties. In Florence County, this aided in the addition of an early voting site, and several other counties have expressed a desire to add more sites in response to LDF’s advocacy.

The map above shows early voting locations in Beaufort County overlaying the Black population, which LDF submitted in an advocacy letter to the County Board of Voter Registration and Elections to ensure Black voters in the north were not denied equal access to early voting centers.

LDF staff and volunteers participating in election protection in South Carolina during the November 2022 midterm elections. (Photo by Lebaron Marks for LDF)

Next Up for South Carolina

Avoiding Issues Through Poll Worker Improvemements

Many issues observed in South Carolina could be prevented with proper poll worker training. As the South Carolina Election Protection Coalition plans for the 2024 presidential elections, the focus will be on training and providing election workers with information to ensure safe and accessible voting for all South Carolinians.

Following the coalition’s advocacy in 2022 and 2023 to fight misinformation, the coalition plans to continue to advocate for more informed poll worker training that covers:

Texas

In 2022, LDF’s Texas team recorded an overwhelming number of voter incidents across the state, ranging from lack of accessibility, delayed curbside voting, long lines, machine malfunctions, and intimidation. This report captures just a snapshot of these trends.

The map depicts the poll sites visited across target counties statewide. The map overlays this data with the Black voting age population. Map produced in Social Explorer.

Impact by the numbers

nonpartisan field volunteers
0 +
cities reached
0
early voting and poll sites visited
0
poll site reports submitted
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of reports indicating “no issues” – meaning that when the reports were submitted, the poll sites showed no barriers to voting
0 %

Hotline Reports

During the various 2022 elections, the 866-OUR- VOTE Election Protection hotline received over 4,000 calls from more than half of the state’s counties. Many Texans called the hotline with questions regarding their individual statuses, but a significant majority of the calls dealt with polling place accessibility issues, tech malfunctions, intimidation, and more.

Field Reports

While most sites either had no issues or miscellaneous concerns, there were recurring reports of signage, accessibility, and law enforcement presence at polling sites in target counties monitored across Texas.

Photo: Universal City Library in Universal City, Texas (Bexar County), where a volunteer reported an 80-minute wait time and full parking lot. (Photo by volunteer)

Top Election Day Issues

Law Enforcement

Many poll sites were located next to police precincts

Volunteers reported many instances of intimidating law enforcement presence across the state, citing multiple sites that were located adjacent to police precincts. In one report during the primaries, a volunteer documented a sheriff that set up a tent outside a polling location, forcibly grabbing voters and telling them to vote for a specific candidate. The volunteer spoke to voters who mentioned feeling intimidated and less compelled to vote because of this encounter.

Signage

Signage was the top issue reported across poll sites monitored

The main problems with signage revolved around inadequate markings of curbside voting, which forced voters to find alternative measures. Some poll sites had confusing signage that directed voters to two separate places for curbside voting, and neither was the correct place. Volunteers also documented many sites that lacked proper directional signage into the polling location.

School Police Car at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Waco, TX March 1, 2022. (Photo by volunteer)
Issue Spotlight

Election Technologies and Supplies

Problems with polling place technology caused severe delays for voters on Election Day. Due to malfunctioning machines or confusing user interfaces, wait times reached over two hours at times at some poll sites.

Most machines that malfunctioned were either freezing or failing to input votes. In some cases, confusing user interfaces caused user error, forcing voters to redo their ballot until the machine accepted their choices.

Additionally, polling places began to run out of paper ballots. In those instances, such as at the Houston Community College Alief Hayes Campus in West Houston, the sites were forced to close and refer voters to a nearby polling place. The Harris County election tech team was so inundated with calls that they were unable to fix issues at most polling places.

Issue Spotlight

Voter Intimidation

In 2022, Texans faced serious instances of voter intimidation during the early voting period and on Election Day. In one case, a voter received a threatening letter regarding her party affiliation. At one poll site on Election Day, a voter was harassed and berated by another voter, causing her great distress. There were also numerous instances of poll workers incorrectly wearing party apparel or electioneers harassing voters inside the electioneering boundary. Though some harassers remained outside the 100-foot electioneering boundary, some boasted Confederate flags, large political banners and/or audio expressing their political views.

Throughout early voting, there were several concerning reports of intimidation and voter suppression from a historically Black polling place in Beaumont, Jefferson County. There, white poll workers repeatedly spoke in aggressive tones to Black voters and asked them to recite their addresses within earshot of other voters, poll workers and poll watchers, even when the voter was already checked in. White poll workers and white poll watchers followed Black voters and, in some cases, their Black voter assistants, around the polling place, including standing two feet behind a Black voter and the assistant, while the voter was at the machine casting a ballot. White poll workers helped white voters scan their voted ballots into voting machines but did not help Black voters trying to do the same thing. Partner organizations ultimately had to sue to ensure similar patterns were not repeated in the future.

Outside a polling site in Collin County, Texas. While signs and flags were positioned beyond the 100-foot electioneering boundary, volunteers reported the intimidating effects of the display, which included a Confederate flag. (Photo by volunteer)

Voters wait in line on Super Tuesday at the Menchaca Road Branch, Austin Public Library on March 05, 2024 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Next Up for Texas

Addressing Intimidation for All Forms

In the face of third-party efforts to intimidate voters, excessive presence of police at poll sites, and the state-level attempts to undermine local election official’s authority in communities with large populations of voters of color, LDF and partners will continue to monitor and address efforts aimed to deter voters and threaten democratic institutions.

Looking ahead, LDF and partners will:

Attendees at a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court October 4, 2022 before Merrill v. Milligan, the Alabama redistricting case. (photo by Allison Shelley for LDF)

The Path Ahead in 2024

Election Infrastructure Improvements

Whether to ensure timely delivery of absentee ballots, visible signage and adequate parking at poll sites, or functioning machine technology on Election Day, investment in the fundamental infrastructure of America’s elections must be a critical priority in 2024. Accessibility should be prioritized at every level.

Transparency in Poll Site Changes

While standards vary across states for reporting poll site changes and making them available to the public, LDF and partners will continue to pursue efforts to promote transparency and monitor for discriminatory poll site changes and closures.

Poll Worker Recruitment and Training

Poll workers serve as the frontline of America’s democracy. Recruiting a rising generation of poll workers and election staff will help promote the resilience of our political process. Further improvements to poll worker training can also serve as one of the most proactive means to avoid confusion, congestion, and other issues on voting days.

Voter Education and Mobilization

As election rules continue to evolve due to legislative actions or court interventions, it will be essential that voters are informed of the rules that apply in their states. Voter education campaigns should be catered to address the unique circumstances of first- time voters, out-of-state and college students, and formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted voters. Outreach materials should also be provided in a range of languages.

Countering Election Sabotage

Strategic monitoring and messaging efforts to detect and counteract mis- and disinformation campaigns will continue to be vital to dismantle election sabotage efforts. The rise of new technology and rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies will make these efforts increasingly vital. The strength of our democracy depends on trust in our elections.

LDF's Report on the 2020 Election

Democracy Defended

2020 saw a dramatic increase in attempts to suppress the vote of Black, Latinx, and other minority-community voters. Democracy Defended captures and analyzes LDF’s work during the 2020 election season, including our Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender initiatives. It provides documentation of barriers faced by Black voters in PTV/VRD focus states and solutions for policy makers, election administrators, and community members to implement to ensure fair access to the vote in future elections.

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