Glitches Mar Voting, Frustrate Voters in Georgia, Other States

The 2018 U.S. midterm elections wound to a close Tuesday amid voter frustration in some parts of the country as worries about cyberattacks gave way to concerns about voting irregularities in a handful of states. 

From Florida to Georgia to Texas, election monitors reported a gamut of glitches, from broken voting machines and a shortage of paper ballots to unexpectedly shuttered polling stations and agonizingly long lines. 

Officials were quick to note, though, that problems were isolated and rapidly addressed by election officials. If so, it was little consolation to those voters who in some cases spent hours lined up to cast a ballot – and sometimes never got to do so. 

In Georgia, Ontaria Woods said she waited more than three hours at a Gwinette County polling place and saw two dozen people who had come to vote leave because of the lines. 

“We’ve been trying to tell them to wait, but people have children,'” Woods said. “People are getting hungry. People are tired.”

​Nowhere was the frustration more palpable in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Adams was running to be the country’s first female black governor against Republican Brian Kemp, the secretary of state whose oversight of elections was a central campaign issue.

Voters reported showing up only to find that their names were not on active voter registration rolls. Others said they’d been denied provisional ballots, Sara Henderson, executive director Common Cause of Georgia, told VOA. 

After numerous reports of long lines, malfunctioning equipment and other issues, Common Cause got two local judges to extend voting hours at several precincts. 

But Henderson said the results in close contests may not be known for several days or longer. That is because voters who cast provisional ballots would have to return to their election boards within three days to have their ballots validated. 

“I think we’re in for a few days of trying to figure all this out,” Henderson said.

Well before Tuesday’s vote, Georgia’s electoral system had drawn the scrutiny of voting rights advocates. Last month, Common Cause petitioned a court to block a state law requiring voter registration forms to exactly match data on file with state agencies.

The law had potentially barred more than 53,000 Georgians from registering to vote. 

Many of those affected by the ruling were later allowed to register after a court issued an injunction temporarily suspending the match rules. 

Elsewhere, reports of broken ballot scanners surfaced at several polling places in New York City, the Associated Press reported.

Turnout was so heavy at one packed precinct on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that the line to scan ballots stretched around a junior high school gym. Voters arriving at two separate polling stations discovered that most scanners had broken down, forcing some people to drop their ballots in “emergency ballot boxes” or vote with an affidavit ballot.

“There are broken scanners everywhere in Brooklyn,” Stefan Ringel, spokesman for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, said.

​In Phoenix, a polling site was foreclosed on overnight. The owners of the property locked the doors, taking election officials by surprise.

Voters had been sent to another precinct nearby, but Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said the location in Chandler was up and running shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday.

For about an hour after polls opened Tuesday morning, a Sarasota County, Florida, precinct had to tell voters to come back later because their ballots were not available.

Computer problems snarled voting for hours in Indiana, where a judge ordered 12 polling places in one northwestern county to stay open late after voting didn’t start on time.

In Texas, home of a narrowly contested U.S. Senate race, delays were reported in Houston after apparent issues with registration check-in machines.

The U.S. Border Patrol also canceled a “crowd control exercise” that was scheduled for Tuesday in El Paso after criticism from civil liberties groups that it was too close to a polling center and could scare voters away.

​Federal officials said there were no signs of any foreign cyberattacks on critical election systems, although social media trolls targeted some voters with misinformation.

Several hours before polls closed, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen cautioned that the Russians “have a full court press through many means.”

Still, officials insisted that two years of preparations are paying off as intrusion sensors had found no evidence of hacked systems. 

There were “no tie-backs to any foreign actors that we’ve seen,” said Chris Krebs, undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s protection directorate. 

Social media companies acted swiftly to take down what appeared to be deliberate misinformation, Krebs said. Several incidents were referred to law enforcement for investigation. 

Nearly 100 million Americans were expected to take to the polls in an election that was widely seen as a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump. A record 36 million Americans cast their ballots during early voting.

National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press.

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