Recent court rulings across the country are opening up the election process to more public scrutiny of the presidential election, and are also setting the stage for more election-related challenges and litigation, a law professor said at an American Bar Association conference in Washington today.
"We could see on Election Day a sort of circus atmosphere where there's tons of people out challenging voters and trying to prevent people or intimidate people at the polls," said Rebecca Green, co-director of the election law program at the College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law.
In Virginia, for example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in June that the public can now access voter rolls that include voter history, something only political parties had access to previously, Green said.
The access to those voter registration forms in Nevada and elsewhere have led to groups forming like the Tea Party-affiliated True the Vote, which have mounted hundreds of pre-election challenges to voter rolls in targeted areas and swing states, Green said.
While many look at that as protecting the integrity of elections, others, including Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have said it might border on voter suppression, Green said. Cummings sent a letter to True the Vote asking for copies of its review process.
The potential for challenges and litigation will continue on and after Election Day, however.
"True the Vote, for example, has deployed volunteers to go to targeted precincts and try to challenge voters Election Day using sophisticated technology that hasn't been used before," Green said.
In Colorado, a series of cases looking at post-election transparency resulted in a judge ruling there is no constitutional right to a secret ballot. In that state, the public can now look at ballots, and those ballots have barcodes on them that voter rights advocates worry might be used to trace back to voters.
Secret ballots now are being challenged in many states, she said, and Arizona and Maine are pursuing legislation to open up ballots to scrutiny.