Long lines, broken machines, and gun scares — here are the reported problems voters are experiencing during the midterms

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesVirginia residents line up to vote in the pouring rain at Robious Middle School November 6, 2018 in Midlothian, Virginia. The U.S. holds its midterm elections today, the first time the nation has voted since a divisive 2016 presidential election.
  • Voters in Georgia experienced long lines and broken machines.
  • A gun scare caused one location in Florida to be put on lockdown.
  • Signatures have proven to be a sticking point in multiple states.

Excitement for the midterm elections has been at unusually high levels, with voters rushing to the polls and smashing early voting records.

But as voters across the country have found, participating in the democratic process isn’t always easy. Across the country, reports of traditional Election Day problems like long lines and broken machines have been frequent. Other more unusual problems have also cropped up, stopping some voters from submitting their ballots.

For Democrats, who are hoping that high levels of interest convert to a blue wave, the prospect of voters being turned away is frightening, and in high-stakes races such as the contests in Georgia and Florida, every vote matters.

Here are the problems that voters have faced so far in the midterms.


Georgia

Jessica McGowan/Getty ImagesVoters cast their ballots at a polling station set up at Grady High School for the mid-term elections on November 6, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia has a tight race to elect the state’s next Governor.

In Georgia, where the contentious gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp has sparked accusations of voter suppression, and multiple counties faced administrative issues on Election Day.

Voters faced long waits after a miscalculation of registered voters

Long lines, an issue that frequently plagues many polling sites across the country, have struck again. Pictures and videos across the country show packed polling places.

Rachel Thompson of Atlanta, Georgia, wrote on Twitter that she waited in line for four hours. “There are 300 of us and THREE voting machines,” she wrote.

The line became so long, that civil rights activist Jess Jackson appeared and spoke in an attempt to get members of the queue to stay.

Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said during a press conference that an error in voter registration numbers caused too few machines to be deployed to the location.

At one location, every machine used to check voters in went down

In Gwinnett County, in at least two locations, officials told local news channel WSB-TV that every Express Poll machine, which is used to create check-in cards for voters that allow them to use separate machines to vote, went down. The line at Annistown Elementary School reportedly stretched the length of the entire building and was hundreds of people long.

Video reports show poll workers in Gwinnett County giving voters instruction on how to use emergency paper ballots.

In at least one location, the problem was reportedly due to a lack of power cords

NBC News later reported that problems at one location stemmed from a lack of power cords. Gwinnett County Director of Communications Joe Sorenson reportedly told NBC that the machines were not plugged in and were running on batteries that ran out.


Florida

Mark Wallheiser/Getty ImagesPeople vote at precinct 5105 in the McCollum Community Center on November 6, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. Floridians are deciding on two hotly contested races for Senate and Governor, among other local seats.

Florida, like Georgia, is facing a heated governors’ race between a black Democrat and a white Republican. Some voters faced a few odd issues when they went to the polls.

One location began the day with no ballots

Over an hour after Precinct 501 in Osprey opened, some voters still didn’t have access to proper ballots, according to the Herald-Tribune. The precinct is split between two congressional districts, and for over an hour, ballots for one of the districts were not available. Voters were told they could vote at another location, or come back later in the day.

The ballots also reportedly featured the name of a deceased Democratic candidate who has since been replaced. Signs at locations indicated that a vote for the deceased candidate would count for the replacement candidate.

Polling location closed for nearly an hour after gun scare

In Palm Bay, a man with a gun in his car in the parking lot of one polling location caused the voting center to go into lockdown for 40 minutes, according to the Associated Press.

Voters were not diverted to another location, and the man was sent for a psychiatric evaluation.


Pennsylvania

Mark Makela/Getty ImagesA voter casts her ballot at the Dallas Township Municipal Garage polling station during the 2018 Pennsylvania Primary Election on May 15, 2018 in Dallas, Pennsylvania. In the second major May primary day nationwide, four states go to the polls: Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, voting machines appeared to cause problems and delays, causing some voters to abandon the effort to vote.

In Philadelphia, at least seven voting locations opened late, and at least 13 other locations experienced voting machine problems, according to The Inquirer.

At the Kingsessing library, one machine was completely broken and another had to be repeatedly restarted, resulting in a line out the door.

One voter reported that technical problems resulted in voting that started at least 45 minutes late, causing multiple people to leave line. Another reported people leaving his polling station after it opened an hour late.

In the weeks leading up to the election, over 30 polling sites changed location, causing administrative confusion. In late October, 33 locations moved after voters received location instructions. Less than a week before the election, four Pittsburgh locations changed.


New York

Across New York City, malfunctioning and jammed ballot scanners led to long lines and waits that exceeded one hour.

At multiple locations in Brooklyn, all scanners broke, which caused some poll workers to tell voters to file emergency ballots or to simply come back later.

Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged voters to stay in line in a tweet, writing “your voice and your vote matter.”

The Board of Elections has attributed the malfunctions to higher turnout and to this year’s two-page ballot, according to NBC New York.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has called for Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan’s resignation in a tweet.


Indiana

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty ImagesButler University mascot Blue III accompanies Michael Kaltenmark as he votes at Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University on November 6, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Turnout is expected to be high nationwide as Democrats hope to take back control of at least one branch of Congress.

In Johnson County, Indiana, voters experienced long waits that were at least partially due to a computer malfunction. Election officials told IndyStar that long lines were compounded by a communications issue between voting machines and electronic rolls, with machines taking three to four minutes to process a single voter. In the afternoon, things had reportedly come to a standstill.

Officials say that by 2:30 PM Tuesday, at least two-thirds of the total population that voted in the general election in the county, had voted in the midterm.

In Monroe County, voting was extended by an hour after an emergency petition. Earlier in the day, certain locations ran out of ballots, causing waits that exceeded an hour.

After at least six locations in Porter County opened late, a judge ordered locations stay open two extra hours.


Massachusetts

Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty ImagesVoters check in before casting their ballots in the Shelburne Town Hall on March 01, 2016 in Shelburne, Massachusetts. Officials are expecting a record turnout of voters in Massachusetts, one of a dozen states holding Super Tuesday presidential primaries or caucuses.

In Boston, one polling location in the South End was shut down after a white powder (which was later identified as baking soda) was found in an absentee ballot.

The polling site was closed for nearly an hour according to CBS Boston.

District Chief Jeff Price said that the fire department believes that the baking powder was placed in the ballot to “disrupt the voting,” and that the police were now investigating the matter.

Numerous machines in the area were reported as broken according to non-profit group Common Cause, but rather than being instructed to cast emergency or provisional ballots, some voters were reportedly turned away.


Texas

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesVoters line up outside the polling place at Fire Station Number 2 on Election Day November 06, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. In Texas, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) is in a surprisingly tight contest against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.

In Texas, six polling locations in Harris County will stay open an extra hour after an emergency lawsuit was filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas Organising Project, who alleged that those polling locations opened well after 7 AM.

Beth Stevens, voting rights legal director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, told The Texas Tribune that several locations in the county also had far fewer voting machines than they were supposed to.

Texas’ Senate race between Senator Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke has been closely watched, with highly anticipated results.

Early voting in the state was also highly contentious, with some voters reporting intimidation and harassment, and others alleging that voting machines were switching their votes.

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