/ STORY

Enfranchising All Americans

The 2020 election cycle shed light on the uneven, underfunded, and often suppressive nature of American voting systems that are designed by partisan state legislatures, and implemented by hard working, but often overwhelmed, county and municipal election administrators.

The U.S. election system ecosystem essentially operates within three domains: administration, access, and protection. Many citizens are aware of efforts to protect the fundamental right to vote. Where there is a risk of voter disenfranchisement, it can be overcome through proper planning and funding of elections to address inequities in the system. Some examples include:

  • Increasing the number of polling locations
  • Increasing the number of early voting days and hours
  • Simplifying the rules by which people can vote by mail

Like so many others, Mountain anticipated a contentious 2020 election cycle.  Among other priorities we honed in on the systems that enable all Americans the chance to exercise their right to vote.  In late 2019, Mountain began to resource vital state and national organizations whose early efforts laid the foundation for dramatic increases in the ability of all our citizens to vote.  Results include:

  • 37,000 additional voting hours and improved absentee witness requirements in North Carolina. 
  • 15 additional early vote sites in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and 180 polling locations on election day, up from 5 during the primary.  
  • More than 3 million vote by mail registrations in Pennsylvania, massively outperforming expectations.
  • Doubled the number of early voting locations available in several major counties in Texas.
  • Eliminated or improved signature matching requirements in Michigan.
  • Protected or created ballot receipt deadlines so ballots postmarked on election day would be counted in several states.

Mindful that efforts to make voting more accessible would be contentious, in parallel Mountain provided funds to a number of election protection organizations able to advance litigation on behalf of citizens disenfranchised by bad practices, as well as help individual voters defend or cure ballot issues.

Because of early election administration strengthening, coupled with confident litigation that played offense as well as defense, millions of people historically under-represented exercised their right to voteThe 2020 election turnout was historic in scale, one of the country’s most secure, and also among its most representative and thus, fair.

State specific organizations increased polling locations, recruited and trained poll workers and expanded same day registration and much more – while ensuring that vote by mail had its best chances of success. Much of Mountain’s work in 2020 supported these organizations on the frontlines of election administration, whose essential work included:

  • A statewide coalition effort to expand the number of satellite voting locations, educate voters about how to use Michigan’s new vote by mail and early vote systems, and ensure that county election administrators could process ballots in a timely manner.  
  • Preventing polling location closures and expanding the number of early vote hours available in North Carolina.
  • Election administration, election protection and voter education work across Pennsylvania.  
  • Facing down voter intimidation and disruption around the voting process in eight states. 
  • Enrolling more than 6 million student voters across 37 states.
  • Answering hundreds of thousands of calls, texts and emails from voters throughout the election cycle. 

As long as some would restrict the right to vote by others eligible to do so, Mountain will continue to work on U.S. voting systems.