The 2024 election cycle has officially dawned, with less than a year until the final ballots for the presidential general election will be cast. For decades, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) has engaged with partners nationwide to monitor election issues, pursue proactive policy interventions, and — when needed — file lawsuits to protect voting rights leading up to election days. Recent election cycles provide a window into the issues voters may face in 2024, as well as a rubric for how the civil rights community and individual voters can take affirmative steps to protect and expand access to our democracy.
In LDF’s 2021 publication, “Democracy Defended: Key Findings From the 2020 Election,” LDF acknowledged the unprecedented convergence of issues in the 2020 election cycle — a global pandemic, an international apex in calls for racial justice and police accountability, and a pernicious movement to advance the “Big Lie,” leading to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. While situated in this unique history, the findings from that report and the lived experiences of Black voters and other voters navigating the election process in 2020 nonetheless continue to inform how the election process may unfold in 2024. But the lessons don’t stop there.
In the months ahead, LDF will announce an exciting new chapter in voter protection advocacy — stay tuned for more details — and will publish the next installment of “Democracy Defended,” capturing lessons learned as we have continued to engage with national and state-based partners to galvanize voter turnout and monitor elections between presidential cycles. Ahead of the report’s full release, we offer a preview of what to expect in 2024 — and suggestions for how you can best prepare for the upcoming election season.
Our findings and recommendations are based on data collected from multiple election cycles, including 2022’s midterm elections. That year, LDF collaborated with partners to conduct over 70 volunteer trainings, equipping those volunteers with the tools and skills they needed to identify and report issues at over 2,300 poll sites. We compiled data on issues reported by media, posted online, provided by grassroots sources, and observed at the thousands of poll sites volunteers visited. As a result of this data collection, we created the following list of key election issues that inform the path forward to 2024 — and also identified opportunities for proactive advocacy so you can prepare to cast your ballots.
Issues concerning election administration infrastructure permeated the 2020 elections, midterms, and other elections in between in each of LDF’s focus states. Volunteers observed inaccessible poll sites for seniors and voters with disabilities, poor signage identifying poll sites, technology failures on official websites and at poll sites, and insufficient supplies of election materials at poll sites. Officials must prioritize investing in the infrastructure of America’s elections in 2024, including prioritizing accessibility at every level.
The limited availability of multiple voting options continues to be a significant barrier to political participation, especially among Black voters. The lack of no-excuse mail-in and early voting options in several states increased the need for voters to cast ballots on Election Day in recent years, leading to long lines and heightened opportunities for disenfranchisement due to election administration failures. In addition, Black voters reported experiencing intimidation and harassment while voting at the polls on Election Day. Expansion of early voting options in some states, including South Carolina, where early voting was available to voters for the first time in 2022, reduced these pressures on Election Day and improved access to the ballot box during the midterm cycle. In 2024, Louisiana will also pilot extended days of early voting due to legislation LDF helped pass in 2021. Broader efforts like these to extend early in-person voting options are critical, but also should be coupled with options for mail-in and absentee accommodations like those that were integral to strong turnout numbers in 202o, because they limited congestion and other issues at polling sites.
Voters must know where to vote and have reasonable access and transportation to that location to cast a ballot on Election Day. Yet the process for poll site selection varies across states and poll site listings can be decentralized, resulting in unreliable information and voter confusion. Leading up to the 2024 elections, it will remain critical to promote transparency in poll site selection processes and listings, and LDF will continue to monitor for discriminatory poll site changes and closures in Black communities.
Poll workers serve as the frontline of America’s democracy. The 2020 elections especially revealed the importance of recruiting a rising generation of election staff to promote the resiliency of our political process. Further improvement to poll worker training is also one of the best proactive ways to avoid confusion, congestion, and other issues on voting days. For example, in 2022, poll workers in multiple states improperly restricted LDF monitors and other nonpartisan volunteers, who were wearing apparel with nonpartisan messaging, from being within the electioneering boundary zone around poll sites. These issues arose due to incorrect interpretations of electioneering rules and poor poll worker training — and could have been avoided with improved and accurate training curricula.
Strategic monitoring and messaging efforts to detect and counteract mis- and disinformation campaigns will continue to be vital to dismantling election sabotage efforts and echoes of the “Big Lie” in future election cycles. The rise of new technology and rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies amplify the need for civil rights groups to be well-versed in the cutting-edge use of these tools, especially to advocate for election-related safeguards.
The path to the ballot box in 2024 may seem riddled with roadblocks — but it doesn’t have to be. Observations of issues from recent election cycles equip voting rights advocates with the tools needed to clear barriers to voting and educate voters on the simple steps they can take to ensure their ballots can be cast and counted. LDF will continue to pursue proactive policy fixes at the federal and state levels — like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and state-level equivalents — as well as monitor issues year-round in 2024 and beyond. And everyone can take simple steps to build a more resilient democracy.
Here’s just a few ideas of where you can start as we head into the 2024 election season:
Learn your election dates for 2024 — and vote in every election. While every state has an election on Nov. 5, 2024, there are primaries and other elections on various dates throughout next year as well. Know the ones that apply in your community by checking your election official’s website, like your secretary of state’s website or sources like USA.gov/when-to-vote.
Check your registration status, especially if you are a new voter or have not voted in recent years, by visiting Vote.org. You can also get information to register for the first time or reregister, find sample ballots, locate your polling site, or sign up for important election reminders. Also, considering sharing the site with five friends who can do the same.
Identify the grassroots power-building and movement organizations doing voter education and mobilization work in your state. Join a local NAACP branch or look for groups in the State Voices network, like LDF client Power Coalition for Equity and Justice in Louisiana or LDF partners like Alabama Forward.
You know your family, friends, and community best. What are the messages and calls to action that will get them most excited about the upcoming elections? Host a debate watch party. Invite friends over for a “Snacks, Sips, and Sample Ballots” night to talk through items on the ballot and make a voting plan over refreshments and libations. Make a bracket and see who can get to the final rounds by completing the most voter outreach calls, texts, or door knocks week-to-week. Think outside the box, recruit some friends, and then get active!
Whichever path you choose, there are ways to exercise your power before, on, and beyond Election Day. The outcomes in 2024 will be decided by those who make a plan, and LDF will continue to produce resources like this to help you craft yours. Stay tuned for more and big announcements in the new year!
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