For months, election officials have worried that activists who believe the electoral system is corrupt and broken could cause major problems in the midterm elections. But sporadic events during the vote did not disrupt the system.
The relative calm so far has come as a relief to election officials, although they remain concerned about plausible legal challenges and misinformation that could erupt in the coming weeks. They praised what they see as strengthening tactics that have been shaken by baseless claims of fraud and widespread distrust in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
They point to better and more frequent communication from election officials, as well as transparency measures such as live cameras at ballot boxes and counting rooms. Some speculate that polls and right-wing media reports promising a sweeping GOP victory nationwide may have deterred some right-wing activists from provocation at polling places.
“It’s going very well,” said Damon Circosta, chairman of the North Carolina Board of Elections. “You can tell from my dizziness that I didn’t expect this.”
A campaign of conspiracy activists has loudly questioned and undermined the country’s electoral system over the past two years. Their efforts have been backed by conservative groups, deep-pocketed supporters and right-wing media influencers, and have raised fears of potential violence, intimidation and vigilance on Election Day.
But the incidents reported by officials this week were far less serious. Despite widespread allegations of fraud, Republican candidates so far have mostly embraced the outcome when they have lost — including some of the loudest pushers of election conspiracy theories. gentlemen. Trump’s call for “Protest!” has so far been largely ignored in response to relatively routine tech issues in Arizona and Michigan.
Early signs of relatively high turnout, especially in battleground states, suggest voters aren’t being intimidated by the noise.
Dozens of games remain undecided, and the counts in some places could continue into next week. In two states, Nevada and Arizona in particular, where several candidates who rejected the election are in a tight race, election lawyers say they are preparing for legal challenges aimed at another trial on the soundness of the system.
On Thursday, Arizona secretary of state Republican nominee Mark Finchem disparaged the electoral system in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, and linked part of the process to the infamous lingering of the 2000 Florida election. electoral systems were compared.
Election officials and others working to protect the vote are under severe pressure.
Election administrators continued to receive calls until polls closed claiming alleged flaws in voting equipment, while poll supervisors in some precincts asked election workers questions about the machines. In a few cases, people tried to disrupt the polls or prevent voters from voting. Republican candidates, election deniers, right-wing influencers and Trump have seized on technical glitches in multiple jurisdictions. trump card. Such misinformation is bound to further damage the confidence of at least some parts of the public.
In some places, clerks and oversight groups said they remained concerned that election deniers on boards charged with proving votes could try to disrupt the electoral process.
“We definitely still have some things to worry about,” said Orion Danjuma, a lawyer for Election Integrity Defending Democracy. Last month, he helped the group successfully file a legal challenge against self-styled vigilantes patrolling voting drop boxes in Maricopa County, sometimes carrying long guns and wearing body armor.
A victory in Arizona may be enough to deter some activists, he said, but stressed that the worst attacks on the election won’t come until weeks and months after the 2020 election, when Trump’s lawyers. Trump has repeatedly tried to reverse the outcome. “We are ready for more lawsuits,” Mr. Danzhuma said.
In fact, Arizona Republican chairwoman Kelli Ward has vowed to take such action. “We’ve been preparing for this for over a year,” she said in a tweet on Thursday. “We have a large team of lawyers ready to act if needed.”
Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, the voices driving the election conspiracy theories are unlikely to fade away anytime soon. On Wednesday morning, organizers of the Michigan League of Election Deniers urged the group to double down, even as Democrats swept nearly every major race in the state.
“We can choose to curl up on a ledge and give in, or we can dust ourselves off and start trudging up the steep incline all over again,” Patrice Johnson, an organizer of Michigan’s fair election, wrote in a blog post. , to maintain the integrity of the election. The group’s next online meeting is scheduled for Thursday.
One of Michigan’s top candidates for a fair election, Kristina Karamo, who ran for secretary of state, did not budge despite losing 14 percentage points and issued what it called an election “irregularity” Thursday afternoon. ‘ list, saying there is more to come.
But Republican candidates for Michigan governor and attorney general both conceded defeat Wednesday, as did Republican Tim Michels of Wisconsin, who campaigned on a promise to change the voting system so the republic Party members will not lose another election in the state.
Election experts say concessions from candidates who spread unfounded theories of vote fraud are critical to ensuring the stability of the electoral system. In addition, they noted, public outreach by election officials could help put out fires.
Fred Sherman, the election chief in Johnson County, Kansas, received calls and emails from voters asking them to count their ballots by hand instead of a machine, which many activists mistakenly believe can be manipulated. He came up with a solution. Voters asking the question in the most populous district of Kansas can choose to place their ballots in a specially marked white envelope in a sealed red ballot bag with a guarantee that they will be counted by hand.
Of the 250,000 people who voted in Johnson County, about 300 used the red bag. That seems to fix the problem, Sherman said.
“They obviously created a little turmoil,” Mr. Sherman said. “It’s like the treadmill is always running on an incline.” Mr. Sherman said he wanted to “run it lightly, which you don’t have when you keep rejecting elections.”
Douglas Wilson, a Democratic strategist in Charlotte, N.C., said polls predicting a massive Republican wave may also help cool the enthusiasm of election deniers. By that logic, he said, trying to undermine confidence in the outcome would only frustrate Republican voters.
“My Republican friends are telling me every day that the Democrats are going to be wiped out,” Mr. Wilson.
Many voting rights groups had begun their own preparations ahead of Tuesday amid concerns about election deniers.
A coalition called Election Defenders has organized dozens of meetings to train people posting at polling places to help prevent voter intimidation. Its goal was to recruit 1,250 volunteers, but more than 2,000 completed hours of online training on how to intervene in tensions, defuse chaos, de-escalate confrontations with potential militants, and most importantly, things calm.
“We’ve had a really good problem with more people signing up than we put them in,” said Tiffany Flowers, the event’s lead organizer. She said she worked 20 Tuesdays. hours, monitoring social media, visiting polling places in her hometown of Atlanta, and connecting with partners across the country.
One of the few incidents in Maricopa County involved a man who tried to physically prevent a woman from entering the polling center minutes before it closed. Mrs. Flowers said several election defenders on hand stepped up to escort the woman inside, then waited outside to bring her back to their car.
“I firmly believe that more Americans want to see everyone who is eligible to vote vote fairly, freely and with dignity,” she said. said the flower.
Nick Colazaniti Contribution report.