Election Day in America brought its familiar mix of misery and allegations of mischief: Aging voting machines crashed; rain-soaked citizens stood in endless lines; laws that many regarded as attempts to suppress turnout among people of color led to both confusion at the polls and angry calls for recounts and investigations.
If the defining risk of Election Day 2016 was a foreign meddling, 2018’s seems to have been a domestic overload. High turnout across the country threw existing problems — aging machines, poorly trained poll workers and a hot political landscape — into sharp relief.
Turnout strained election locations across the state but did not appear to overwhelm them. Voters experienced a smattering of problems throughout the state, including issues with voting machines and unnecessary provisional ballot use.
Voters in Missouri faced confused poll workers as they went to vote on Tuesday, with many reporting they were turned away for not having valid photo identification. The confusion was a result of an October court ruling that allowed Missourians to cast ballots with a range of forms of identification.
Taylor Fritz, 25, brought the voter registration card mailed to him by the state to cast a ballot at his polling station, the Legacy Park Community Center in Lees Summit. But poll workers there told him the card was not an acceptable form of ID, even though a state website specifically says it is. There was even a poster in the gymnasium where he cast a ballot that stated registration cards were acceptable, Fritz said.
“Lucky for me I was able to show my valid state issued ID,” Fritz, an insurance broker, said in an interview. “The problem is not everyone has a state ID like me.”
The post-mortem on what went wrong at polling places across New York City on Election Day won’t be done for days, if not weeks. Across the city — from Brooklyn to Manhattan to the Bronx — ballot scanners jammed and malfunctioned, sowing chaos at polling places.
But preliminarily, it looks like one of those rare occasions where election officials can plausibly blame the weather, at least in part.
Melanie Taylor arrived at her polling place in a Charleston, South Carolina, church at 7:30 a.m., only to find more than 100 people in line ahead of her. Some of them had already been waiting since 6:15. The voting site was using a computerized login for the first time, and the system was down.
After 45 minutes, with the line still out the door, Taylor had to give up and leave for work. (She leads a social work program.) She’s planning to try again later and has been monitoring the wait times through a neighborhood Facebook group. The news was not encouraging.
“It felt like a type of disenfranchisement, even though there wasn’t any violation of voting rights,” Taylor said. “The wait has been all day three hours or more, which is ridiculous.”
Text messages received by a slew of voters — from organizations like Vote.org, EveryTown for Gun Safety and TurboVote — reportedly included incomplete or incorrect information on where and when to vote.
A state district judge ordered Harris County to operate nine polling locations until 8 p.m., an hour after they were scheduled to close. The polling sites experienced issues with technology or were delayed in opening Tuesday morning.
After a voter supplied his passport as identification in Missouri, a poll worker asked, “Are you a member of the caravan?” The voter told HuffPost the exchange was bizarre. “I have an American passport. What does that have to do with the caravan?” he said.
The Annistown Elementary School precinct near Snellville, Georgia, will remain open until 7:25 p.m. after opening late and experiencing issues with its voting machines.
Poll workers in Georgia appear to have been unprepared for the waves of voters who turned out on Tuesday. Officials were scrambling to bring additional equipment to the polls and to field calls from frustrated voters forced to wait in line for hours across the state. Meanwhile, some who called county officials got busy signals or reached voicemail boxes for election offices that were full.
A poll worker in Houston, Texas, was relieved of her duties and escorted from the polling location after hurling racist comments and bumping into a voter. She now faces a criminal assault charge.
Several Chicago poll sites didn’t open on time, so election officials are asking a judge to keep them open later. Also, some voters reported not receiving the second page of their ballots.
A computer glitch in Geauga County, Ohio, caused the voter registration check-in systems to incorrectly mark some voters as having already voted by absentee ballot. The county’s election director said no voters were turned away because of the mistake.
Scanners in Madison County, Alabama, are having trouble reading ballots punched through “too hard” by voters and swollen by moisture, which could mean a hand count later. Neither issue is new to the county.
Voters in Nebraska are allowed to use cellphones inside polling booths, reported the Omaha World-Herald after a voter alerted Electionland that a poll worker told her she could not vote if she was using a cellphone.
The Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Office received dozens of complaints about a sign erected by a church’s pastor at a polling site that reads “Don’t vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing ‘Oh how I love Jesus’ on Sunday.” The office says it can’t be removed because it is on private property outside the 100-foot perimeter where campaigning isn’t allowed.
Voters reported waits of an hour and longer on Election Day in areas ranging from the Gulf coasts of Texas and Florida to parts of Missouri and South Carolina, up to Chicago, rural central Pennsylvania and New York City. Polling places opening late, voting machine outages, understaffing and sheer volume caused some voters to abandon the lengthy lines before casting their ballots.
In the Houston area, voters waited over half an hour for polls to open as staff struggled to get voting machinery online. Voters who were late for their jobs left polling places in Brooklyn as high turnout and downed ballot scanners led to waits of up to two hours.
A polling location was moved into a facility in a private community, and security guards demanded IDs from voters who turned up to cast their ballots.