Voters Face Machine Problems, Long Lines in Some States

The question this year was whether problems would be widespread and indicate a pattern of fraud or voter intimidation

Despite Donald Trump's continued skepticism that the election was on the up and up, few voters who went to the polls Tuesday encountered problems — and even then, most issues involved the usual machine breakdowns and long lines.

The run-up to the vote was fraught, with unsupported claims by the Republican presidential candidate of a rigged election and fears that hackers might attack voting systems. He reiterated his claims on Election Day, after his campaign announced it was seeking an investigation in the battleground state of Nevada over reports that some early voting locations had allowed people to join lines to vote after polls were scheduled to close.

Asked on Fox News if he would accept Tuesday's results, Trump continued to demur.

"We're going to see how things play out," Trump said. "I want to see everything honest."

Concerns of voter intimidation and fraud led to a flurry of lawsuits in the run-up to Election Day, and new voter regulations in more than a dozen states also held the potential to sow confusion at polling places.

The question this year was whether problems would be widespread and indicate a pattern of fraud or voter intimidation.

A computer problem in Durham County, North Carolina — a Democratic stronghold in a state that has been a key battleground in the presidential race — triggered long lines when election officials had to rely on a paper check-in process. The incident prompted the North Carolina State Board of Elections to extend voting hours in eight Durham County precincts for up to one hour, and a single precinct in Columbus County for 30 minutes.

There were also sporadic reports of people in North Carolina who said they were not put on the voter rolls despite registering to vote through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Officials said in a statement that voters whose registrations are missing have the right to use a provisonal ballot and may not be turned away. 

Trump had suggested that Philadelphia was among those places ripe for voter fraud. The city's district attorney, Seth Williams, said his office had investigated 68 complaints about voter intimidation, broken machines or other problems, a number consistent with the past three presidential elections. He said all had proven unfounded.

Some voters said they were were being asked for their ID even when they didn't need to show it. Ryan Kellermeyer, 39, of Philadelphia, said when he wanted to vote at Cayuga Elementary, the poll worker asked him for ID, NBC News reported. He told her it was not required but she insisted. He said she eventually allowed him to vote without showing ID.

There were scattered reports of voting machine glitches in Pennsylvania – where some voters said they tried to vote the Republican ticket only to see the Democratic boxes checked on their touchscreen, NBC News reported.

Many voters apparently noticed the discrepancy and were able to retry and vote as they intended.

In Texas, a computer used by election clerks malfunctioned at a polling place inside a high school in suburban Houston, forcing officials to briefly divert voters to another polling place more than two miles away. Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham said the malfunctioning console was later replaced with a backup and voting resumed.

While there were concerns that the heated rhetoric of the campaign would lead to confrontations at the polls, only a few minor skirmishes were reported. In southeastern Michigan, authorities said an argument outside a polling place between a woman supporting presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and another backing Trump led a man to shove one of the women and spurred others to join in. No arrests were made.

Police responded to a polling location in Spring, Texas, where a man was sitting next to a sign that read, "f*****s vote Dem," according to a Houston Chronicle reporter who witnessed the scene. The man, who had a gun, was detained after moving closer to the polling site, the reporter said.

A man was also arrested in Richmond, Texas, for attempting to cast a second vote, according to the Fort Bend County Sheriff's office. The man claimed to work for Trump and told officials that he was "testing the system," the sheriff's office tweeted.

In Pompano Beach, South Florida, two clerks were fired after a dispute. Police were called to the Herb Skolknick Community Center after complaints of possible voter intimidation from the Democratic and Republican poll watchers at one precinct, NBC Miami reported. That led to a dispute between the clerks from precincts 23 and 24 - one a Democrat, the other a Republican. They were fired and ordered to leave the property immediately. Replacement clerks were brought in.

Meanwhile students at a Phoenix, Arizona, high school walked out their classrooms Tuesday to canvass for votes, MSNBC reported. Many chanted slogans against Trump and Joe Arpaio, the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County.

But at least in the early going, most of the problems were routine — the kinds of snags that come every four years, like the lines, machines not working properly, and issues with ballots or voter rolls. One New Jersey voter reported waiting three hours because there were too few voting machines at her polling place in Jersey City.

By 11 a.m. ET, Election Protection, a national voter helpline, received 5,500 calls from voters who witnessed problems casting their votes. 

Election Protection said voters called about long lines in several precincts around the country, including New York, due to too few poll workers and machine break down. 

At PS 154 in Harlem, angry voters reported that only one ballot scanner was working, and that lines to vote were running about two hours long, according to NBC4 New York. Photos posted to social media showed voting rooms teeming with people.

NBC employee Julianna Garreffa waited for more than one hour at Hudson County Prep High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, to cast a ballot due to an issue with voting booths. The polling site also ran out out provisional ballots at 6:30 am. ET and about a dozen voters left before casting a ballot, she said. The problems had apparently been corrected by 8 a.m. ET, according to reports in local media. 

Election officials in Utah said voting machine problems in the southern part of the state forced poll workers early in the day to use paper ballots.

The Colorado Secretary of State's voter registration system went down for nearly 30 minutes during midday voting Tuesday.

The failure forced in-person voters to cast provisional ballots, and some county clerks were unable to process mail ballots that needed to have the signature verified. Democrats went to court Tuesday evening to extend voting across the state by two hours, but a judge ruled against the request.

In Virginia, voters have been reporting machine problems in several precincts and lines forming as a result. Election Protection said "we had reports of poll workers turning voters away but that has now been resolved."

Frustrations ran high at a Los Angeles polling place as voters were left waiting two hours when ballot marking devices arrived late. Elections officials didn't say what caused the delay at Delano Recreation Center in Van Nuys.

"It's been a fiasco," said voter Bob Corbett, who arrived well before the 7 a.m. opening time. 

California is not known for long lines on Election Day, but some observers said that this election is different.

At least 150 people were waiting to vote at the North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Regional Library in Los Angeles before it opened. Long lines were reported at polling places across the city, as voters hoped to cast their ballots before heading to work.

In Northern California, a steady stream of cars pulled up to an absentee ballot drop-off station outside a courthouse in Oakland. And at a columbarium in San Francisco that served as a polling location, people filled out their ballots on steps next to urns and crypts after officials ran out of voting booths.

This is the first presidential election in which a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act was not in place. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down a portion of the law that had required certain states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to receive pre-approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for any election law change. This allowed a number of states, most led by Republican legislatures and governors, to enact strict voter ID laws and reduce early voting.

Legal challenges to some of those voter ID laws have led to a multitude of court rulings in recent months that blocked or struck down some provisions while upholding or reinstating others. That triggered concerns of misinformation among voters, election officials and poll workers.

An example was early voting in Texas, where there were reports in at least seven counties of outdated voter-guide posters and poll workers incorrectly saying that photo IDs were required to cast a ballot. An earlier federal appeals court ruling had determined the state's new ID law was discriminatory against minorities and the poor and ordered the state to soften its rules.

But it's not just poll workers giving out wrong information about voter ID laws. On Monday, retailer Urban Outfitters tweeted an Election Day "handy guide for your reference" to its 1 million Twitter followers, offering a free “I Voted” button at stores while supplies last, according to ProPublica. 

The guide said Americans going to the polls need a “voter’s registration card” as well as an ID, which is not correct. Voter ID laws vary from state to state but no state requires a voter registration card. 

Urban Outfitters deleted its tweet and updated its guide, according to ProPublica.

The Supreme Court ruling also prompted the Justice Department to send fewer trained election observers to polling places around the country than in previous years, with the reduction likely to diminish the department's ability to detect voter intimidation and other potential problems.

Meanwhile, state election officials were guarding against any attempt to breach their systems. Previously, some 33 states accepted an offer from the federal government to check their voter databases and reporting systems for vulnerabilities after hackers attempted to access systems in two states over the summer.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us