- 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.
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.
This line is so disheartening, that Jessie Jackson has turned up and is rallying up voters, telling them not to leave @ajc @wsbtv @cbs46 @CityofAtlanta @staceyabrams #wewillvote pic.twitter.com/MV3Xd5os4j
— Rachel Thompson (@WorldByRachel) November 6, 2018
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.
Check out this line at a polling place in Gwinnett County.
The Anderson school location had machine problems earlier, but voters and county officials tell me it's now, fixed.@wsbtv #Election2018 #ElectionOn2 pic.twitter.com/OJY3DxUHmv
— Audrey Washington (@AudreyWSBTV) November 6, 2018
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, 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.
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.
— Melony Roy ???????????? (@MelonyRoy) November 6, 2018
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.
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.
In summary: filled out ballot; stood in line for 1.5 hrs to scan; all scanners eventually broke; was told NOT to use emergency ballot boxes bc vote wouldn’t count; was then told to use emergency ballot boxes. Also was yelled and swatted at by poll worker. Democracy! @BOENYC
— Mary E. Harris (@marysdesk) November 6, 2018
— Nate Tubbs (@sciencenate) November 6, 2018
Insanity in Brooklyn PS9 polling place. 2 hour line at 3pm bc only one working scanner. Now that scanner just broke. pic.twitter.com/OcL0wurflT
— Nina Morrison (@Nina_R_Morr) November 6, 2018
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.
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.
My son has been waiting in line for over an hour in Bloomington after the polling place ran out of ballots. "People keep donating hundreds of dollars in pizza though, so at least there's food." He's hanging in there.
— John Russell (@JohnRussell99) November 6, 2018
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.
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.