The United States’ byzantine election system is governed by overlapping rules on the county, state, and federal levels. Elections in different states and even different cities are held on different days, with polling places in varying locations and voting hours that change from one year to the next.
Together, the laws and procedures result in a chaos that undermines faith in election, and that is easily exploited by politicians in the name of election integrity.
“The confusion creates this fog that then opens up the doors for more blatant forms of suppression,” Albright said. In recent years, strict voter identification laws, the substantial reduction of polling locations and voting hours, and massive purges of voter rolls have all resulted in more confusion.
And while solutions exist, they aren’t always put into practice. Instead, Republicans tout laws they claim combat voter fraud — a problem that is vanishingly rare. Those laws both directly suppress voters and complicate elections to the point where confusion becomes an additional voter suppression tactic, said Rick Hasen, a voting rights expert and professor at the University of California Irvine.
“The more complicated you make things out of a desire to secure the integrity of the process — or at least that’s the claim — the greater the risk, if the rules are complex, that voters and election officials are not going to understand them,” Hasen said.