Midterm voting mostly problem-free in battleground states, voting advocates report
A line of voters at the West Gray Multi-Service Center in Houston on Tuesday (Photo by Kira Lerner / States Newsroom)
As of midday Tuesday, voting across the country had largely gone smoothly without any major issues or incidents of voter intimidation, voting rights advocates said. In counties that did experience problems, which were typical of any Election Day, the incidents were largely attributed to faulty technology and human error.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, one of the nation’s largest voting jurisdictions in a critical battleground state, election workers Tuesday morning reported issues with ballot tabulators at about 20 percent of vote centers. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said at a news conference that the affected machines were rejecting about one ballot out of every five ballots inserted, according to Votebeat.
Officials did not initially know what was causing the issue, but technicians were dispatched to fix it. Around 2 p.m. Mountain time, Maricopa County reported that technicians changed the tabulator printer settings to produce darker markings, which resolved this issue at a number of locations.
Gates stressed that the issue was not a sign of fraud and that nobody was being disenfranchised.
Nonetheless, misinformation proliferated about the tabulator issues online. Blake Masters, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, hinted at potential fraud on Twitter. “Hard to know if we’re seeing incompetence or something worse,” he wrote. “All we know right now is that the Democrats are hoping you will get discouraged and go home.”
Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party and a fake elector, wrote on Twitter that the county is “forcing poll workers to coerce voters to put their ballot in a box rather than getting it tabulated on site. Or they’re fired!”
In reality, officials reiterated that voters have a number of options when they encounter a malfunctioning tabulator, including going to another one of the 223 county vote centers or waiting for the functionality to be restored.
In a morning call with reporters, Taylor Moss, the election protection director at the Arizona Democracy Resource Center, said that given the machine glitches, she’s even more concerned that numerous voters have listened to rhetoric from election deniers encouraging them to show up to vote late in the day on Election Day.
“It’s really unfortunate that these bad actors who are spreading lies that mail-in voting isn’t safe and secure have now hurt the people they’ve been speaking to and the people that they have been pushing these lies on,” she said. “A lot of people have come out to vote on Election Day who don’t normally, and now they’re going to have to wait longer because of the higher turnout today intersecting with these ballot tabulation issues.”
Elsewhere, Emily Eby, senior election protection attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, reported Tuesday morning that some touch screens in Bell County, Texas were also experiencing technical issues, but the issues were resolved by midday. Eby said her group received some reports of intimidation, but couldn’t share details because of confidentiality issues, and the cases were actively being handled Tuesday morning.
Election Protection coalition partners in Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania all reported that things were running smoothly and, despite some late polling place openings and other minor issues, nothing was atypical of a midterm Election Day.
In Nebraska, a piece of machinery hit a tree outside a voting site in Otoe County Tuesday morning, causing a power outage that didn’t disrupt voting, according to the Nebraska Examiner. A small number of voters were also given only the first page of a two-page ballot, but otherwise officials reported things were going smoothly.
Early and absentee voting
Heading into Election Day, voting advocates were concerned that in three critical battleground states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — Republican officials and candidates were pushing to disqualify thousands of mail-in ballots.
In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court sided with the Republican National Committee and ruled that election officials can’t count ballots if the voter didn’t put a date on the envelope, even if the ballot arrived before Election Day. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman, several voters and Democratic groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the plan to not count the ballots.
Similarly, in Wisconsin, a court sided with Republicans seeking to block ballots from being counted if they lack a witness address.
But in Michigan, a judge on Monday rejected Republican secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo’s effort to disqualify absentee voters in Detroit and to force them to vote in person. Karamo claimed, without evidence, that voter fraud compromised the absentee voting process.
“Such harm to the citizens of the city of Detroit, and by extension the citizens of the state of Michigan, is not only unprecedented, it is intolerable,” Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny wrote in his opinion, according to Michigan Advance.
During early voting, some minor issues were attributed to human error and staffing. In Cobb County, Georgia, over 1,000 voters were not mailed an absentee ballot who should have received them. As a solution, a court agreed to extend the deadline for the receipt of their ballots to Nov. 14, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
Cobb County Election Director Janine Eveler said that the ballots were not sent out due to human error, explaining to reporters that 38 percent of the staff are new to their jobs.
“I am sorry that this office let these voters down,” Eveler said in a message to the Board of Elections and Registration. “Many of the absentee staff have been averaging 80 or more hours per week, and they are exhausted. Still, that is no excuse for such a critical error.”
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