Tuesday 17 September 2019

Scattered reports of delays at U.S. polling places as turnout surges

A man wearing a New York Yankees hat votes during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A man wearing a New York Yankees hat votes during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Julia Harte and Maria Caspani

Americans experienced scattered delays at U.S. polling places in about a dozen states on Tuesday, largely in sites still using aging voting machines that were overwhelmed by a surge in voter turnout, according to officials and voter rights groups.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security described the problems as "sparse," and an official told reporters they did not seem to have been a significant impediment to voting.

Some Georgia voting centers, however, saw lines of hundreds of people waiting to cast ballots in an election that will determine control of both houses of Congress and three dozen governor's seats. Georgians were picking their next governor following a tight, bitter race in the Southern state.

Two senior legal experts who advise the Democratic Party told Reuters they were unaware of any serious hacking or electronic disruptions related to Tuesday’s midterm elections anywhere in the United States. But one of the experts said that lines at polling places in Georgia were long and disruptive.

Officials in Philadelphia and North Carolina reported scattered voting machine outages, and addressed the problems by offering provisional ballots to some voters. Voter advocacy groups alleged equipment-driven delays in Florida and Texas.

Delays appeared to be most common in states with aging voting machines, said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

U.S Senate candidate Matt Rosendale talks with supporters at an election night party in Helena, Montana, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
U.S Senate candidate Matt Rosendale talks with supporters at an election night party in Helena, Montana, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom speaks after being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A snow covered car with a Trump sticker outside an election night party for U.S Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Helena, Montana, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom hugs his wife Jennifer as he celebrates being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A man wearing a New York Yankees hat votes during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A person arrives as early morning voting opens for the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Voters line up outside of the Center for Civil and Human Rights ready to vote, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes, with her son Myles, checks in at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes arrives to fill out her ballot to vote at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Mist shrouds the U.S. Capitol dome on the morning of midterm Election Day, as voters go to the polls to decide the control of the U.S. House and Senate in the mid-term of the Trump presidency in Washington, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People cast their ballots in the midterm election at William Ford Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
People cast their ballots in the midterm election at William Ford Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
The U.S. Capitol is shown as evening sets on midterm Election Day in Washington, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum marks his midterm election ballot as his daughter Caroline and son Jackson, both age 4, watch in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley
Democratic candidate for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham greets diners at Barelas Coffee House on midterm elections day in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
People cast their ballots in the midterm election at William Ford Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
Voters line up at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Voters line up to vote as polls opened in the U.S. midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections in Deerfield Beach, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Voters line up to vote as polls opened in the U.S. midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections in Deerfield Beach, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A woman stands in a polling station at P.S. 140 during the midterm election in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Milford Hayes and his son Myles watch as Milford's wife, U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes, is interviewed at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Stickers sit as an election worker waits for people to vote during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Voters wait in a line inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
People vote during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A golf cart passes a sign for a polling station in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Virginia state senator Jennifer Wexton, Democratic nominee for Virginia's 10th Congressional District, speaks with reporters after casting her ballot, at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Virginia, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

"If you look at the picture, I don't think it's a coincidence that those states are at the top," Norden said. "I would also imagine that it's worse just because this seems to be a much higher turnout election, and I think when you get a much higher turnout election, the same problem will look a lot worse."

He also noted that there seemed to be fewer complaints of faulty voting equipment compared with the last U.S. congressional midterm elections in 2014 in states that have updated their machines, such as Virginia. Norden emphasized that his observation was based on anecdotal reports.

Broken voting machines were reported in at least 12 states on Tuesday, according to an "election protection" coalition of more than 100 groups that set up a national hotline for reporting irregularities.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes the Phoenix area, several polling places experienced delays due to printer malfunctions, County Recorder Adrian Fontes said. A civil rights group on Tuesday sent a letter to Maricopa County election officials demanding they extend hours at voting places where the malfunctions caused polls to open late or not at all.

In Georgia, the state sent investigators to look into problems with digital poll books, said state spokeswoman Candice Broce. Some voters were given provisional ballots instead of using regular voting machines, she said.

Postal worker Shirley Thorn, 56, said technical problems caused her to wait more than four hours at a polling station in Snellville, Georgia, to cast her ballot.

"I was determined I was going to cast my ballot today because it's a very important election," Thorn said.

Civil rights groups have already been locked in litigation with several states over voting restrictions that were passed in the lead-up to Tuesday's election.

North Dakota introduced a voter ID requirement that Native Americans say discriminates against them; Kansas and Georgia moved polling locations, and changes in Tennessee registration laws led to people being removed from the voting lists.

Advocacy groups said the changes stack the deck against minority voters who are likely to support Democratic candidates.

Each of those hotly contested states' top election officials have said the changes were made to protect against voter fraud and accommodate budgetary constraints, not to suppress voting.

Independent studies have found that voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States.

Reuters

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News