Analysis: More voting happening, more voting problems popping up

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But with the unprecedented move to allow early in-person and mail-in voting during the pandemic has come numerous hiccups — including annoyingly long lines for early in-person sites in key battleground states and confusion over ballot collection boxes.

What we know right now

Who is voting by mail? 2020 ballots will be available in all 50 states and Washington, DC, by the end of the week. This election is happening. But the specifics of voting by mail vary by state. Check out CNN’s voting guide to figure out if your state requires anything special.
Who is voting in person? Early in-person voting will be available in 21 US states by the end of this week.
Who is actually voting? Read this from CNN’s political unit: With 21 days until Election Day, Democrats lead Republicans in preelection voting in nine key states that could decide the next president.
How do we know? This detailed preelection voting information comes from Catalist, a company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and nonprofit issue-advocacy organizations and is giving new insights into who is voting before November.
What has it showed? Catalist analyzed almost 8 million ballots cast in 31 states so far.
What does this actually tell us? The returns represent a small fraction of the expected number of ballots to be cast in 2020, as Trump and Hillary Clinton received about 130 million votes combined four years ago.
How does this compare with 2016? In those competitively rated states with party data available, Democratic voters represent a greater share of pre-Election Day voting than Republicans, as early and mail-in voting have surged amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although that is not predictive of the outcome of any race, the data reflects polling that shows Republicans strongly prefer voting in person on Election Day rather than early.
In almost all of those key states, Democratic voters also make up a larger share of those who have cast ballots so far this year than they did at this point in the 2016 cycle.
Where is the change most pronounced? Democrats are responsible for 76% of the ballots cast so far in Pennsylvania, despite making up roughly 47% of registered voters. Republicans make up almost 39% of registered voters in Pennsylvania but have cast only 16% of the ballots so far.
In Florida and North Carolina, Republican voters actually led in ballots cast at this point four years ago. But now Democrats hold a 22-point lead over Republicans in the share of ballots cast in Florida and a 33-point lead in North Carolina.

What are the problems so far?

Voter registration glitches. Virginia’s entire voter registration system crashed Tuesday — the last day to register — because of a cut fiber cable. The state’s lieutenant governor called for an extension to the registration deadline, but it’s not clear if that will occur. A federal judge earlier rejected Florida’s request to extend its own voter registration deadline.
Long lines. In Georgia, there were reports of people waiting up to 11 hours for early in-person voting. A glitch with software at the early voting site set up at the State Farm Arena had people snaked around the massive space.
Other images on social media had Democrats alleging voter suppression.
And honestly, nobody should have to wait in line 11 hours. Ever. That’s a failure of democracy.
But those lines on the first day of early voting were explained by ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman, who covers voting issues, as less distressing than you might think.
“I think that there’s a consensus across political science that long lines on the first day of voting are not indicative of problems to come, they’re simply indicative of enthusiasm,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“You know, in the same way that people line up for the opening of a store that they’re very excited about and then that store closes in six months. Turnout on the first day is not necessarily indicative of problems going forward or lines being long for the entirety of the election. So I think that if we see long lines on day two and day three, then certainly we have reason to worry.”
More than 120,000 people voted in Georgia on Monday. Huseman added that it was a holiday in many counties and the long lines were the exception, not the rule. Still, more than 120,000 people voted in Georgia.
“The vast majority of voters in Georgia barely waited at all,” she said.
Voting at the State Farm Arena site was moving briskly Tuesday morning, down to just a 20-minute wait.
But in another Fulton County polling place, the wait was north of two hours.
You can check wait times on a Gwinnett County website. Tuesday afternoon, the wait was as low as 45 minutes at one polling place, averaged two to three hours at others and was as high as eight hours at the County Elections Office.
On Cobb County’s website, wait times were between 60 and 200 minutes when I looked.
There are lines in Texas, too, although a wait of an hour is a much different thing than a wait of eight hours, IMHO.
According to CNN’s report, wait times were at more than 40 minutes in some Houston-area sites. And more than an hour at some locations in Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth.
There were pictures of long lines at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, but local reports suggested the process was taking 30 minutes or so start to finish. It took a reporter two hours at a different site earlier in the morning, however.
Compare that one drop box in Harris County with the 122 early voting sites there, most of which had less-than-30-minute waits when I looked at 4 p.m. ET. Texans who want to vote early and aren’t sick might want to mask up and brave the line.
That one drop box rule was created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, and confirmed by a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals — all appointed by Trump.
Fake ballot boxes in California. So-called ballot harvesting is the gathering of a large number of absentee ballots on behalf of a party or candidate. It’s not allowed everywhere, but it is semi-allowed in California.
That said, everyone is confused by the creation of fake ballot drop boxes, apparently by Republicans in Southern California and Fresno. Some of the boxes, not officially sanctioned, were marked “official ballot box.”
This may just be local party officials trying to gather ballots. But they’ve gotten a cease-and-desist letter from the state’s attorney general.
One of the ballot drop boxes was placed at Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in Santa Clarita and the pastor there is now under scrutiny.