State leaders, voting experts and advocates say they are preparing for an unusual level of confusion and chaos Tuesday as voters cast their ballots in a historically bitter presidential race.
Early voters in some states have faced hours-long lines the past several days. Democrats have filed a flurry of last-minute lawsuits alleging voter intimidation by Donald Trump supporters. And there have been some heated polling site confrontations between Trump voters and Hillary Clinton backers.
Election monitors are especially worried this year about the specter of voter intimidation after calls by the Republican candidate for his supporters to stake out polling places and watch for fraud.
“Individuals who conspire to interfere with a person’s right to vote can face up to 10 years in prison,” read a notice issued by Pennsylvania’s secretary of state after Trump singled out Philadelphia as a place for his supporters to scrutinize.
The concerns have led to extensive contingency plans and a heavy workload for state officials, lawyers and election experts, who are trying to monitor voting problems and troubleshoot them in real time.
“The number and tenor of calls we’ve received about problems, the amount of litigation you already see, it all reflects the moment we’re in,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
On Tuesday, Clarke’s group will be running the nation’s largest independent effort to field voter complaints, questions and problems. The nonpartisan umbrella organization called Election Protection will have 4,500 legal volunteers answering calls to its 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, and 2,500 volunteers stationed at polling sites around the country.