US election blighted by computer glitches and long lines
by Mark Berman, William Wan and Sari Horowitz
As voters flooded polling places across the country on Election Day, some reported problems such as broken machines, long lines and voter intimidation in states ranging from Texas to Pennsylvania.
While voting appeared to proceed without headaches in many locations, election observers said they expect a significant increase in the number of issues reported nationwide. In particular, voters in jurisdictions across the country encountered problems with malfunctioning voting machines, highlighting issues with the aging infrastructure expected to support tens of millions of voters turning out on Election Day.
The first high-profile legal action of the day saw Donald Trump’s campaign headed to court for a hearing in Nevada after filing a lawsuit arguing that polls were improperly kept open late during early voting in Clark County.
According to the lawsuit filed by the Republican nominee, this was done “to help Hillary Clinton,” Trump’s Democratic opponent. Trump’s campaign asked for the voting machines and ballots involved “be set aside, sequestered and impounded” to preserve the status quo “in the event of post-election challenges.”
A spokesman for Clark County noted that early voting records already have to be preserved under state law and said that no polling precincts were improperly kept open. At a hearing Tuesday morning, a skeptical judge questioned the Trump campaign’s attorney and denied the request to preserve evidence in the case.
This lawsuit follows a raft of recent legal wrangling in the days leading up to the election. As the bitter presidential campaign rumbled toward its conclusion, officials across the country have been bracing for the possibility of confusion and chaos on Election Day, owing to a flurry of new voting restrictions and Trump’s calls for his supporters to closely monitor polling places.
Voters in Florida, a key battleground, reported multiple accounts of voters saying they have encountered aggressive, intimidating behavior, according to a nonpartisan group monitoring election issues nationwide.
“In Florida we continue to receive a substantial amount of complaints about voter intimidation,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is running an independent effort to field voter complaints and questions.
Clarke said her group received reports from Miami-Dade County of “yelling, people using megaphones aggressively.” In Jacksonville, in the northeast corner of the state, Clarke said, “an unauthorized individual was found inside (a) polling place.”
This person was at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, a polling precinct in what Clarke described as a part of Jacksonville with predominantly black residents.
“He was asked to leave and refused,” she said. “Through our intervention and calls, that individual has been removed. Unauthorized individuals have no place in the polls.”
During early voting, Clarke’s group also received reports from Hollywood, Florida, about “aggressive individuals hovering around individuals as they approach the polling site,” she said during a briefing with reporters. “Some have turned away because they did not feel able to freely cast (a) ballot.”
Clarke said her group has received reports from about 80,000 voters since the beginning of early voting and expects that figure to reach 175,000 reports by the time the polls close. In 2012, the group received 90,000 calls total on Election Day.
On Tuesday afternoon, Colorado officials reported what could have been one of the biggest disruptions of the day. A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office said that voter registration system was down in parts of the state, which meant that clerks could not process mail ballots and also meant that in-person votes would be viewed as provisional. The issue was resolved shortly before 3:30 p.m. Denver time.
During a telephone interview Tuesday on Fox News, Trump did not say whether he was expecting to argue with the outcome of the election, but he said he believed there were reports of voter fraud happening across the country.
“It’s happening at various places today, it’s been reported,” he said. “The machines, you put down a Republican and it registers as a Democrat, and they’ve had a lot of complaints about that today.”
It was not immediately clear what accounts Trump was referring to when he mentioned “a lot of complaints” about the issue. A report out of Clinton Township, an area near Pittsburgh, quoted some voters saying their tickets were switching from Trump to Clinton. According to that report, officials there said the machines were fixed and the problem resolved.
There have been other issues with machines, including some cases of them showing incorrect votes, though it was unclear how widespread this was.
Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said that they are seeing more problems with voting machines than they have seen in past election years.
“There are more machine breakdowns and more malfunctions all over the place,” Weiser said. “It’s really widespread.”
These breakdowns are not a surprise, Weiser said, because 42 states are using machines that are 10 or more years old. There have been issues with machines in South Carolina, New York, Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois and Indiana.