It’s Election Day, and as people across the country head to the polls, there’s a palpable tension in the air. This midterm election has been widely touted as one of the most important elections of our lifetime. A driving force behind the so-called “blue wave” is the necessity for a Congress that will hold an increasingly dangerous president accountable. Republicans, meanwhile, have repeatedly emphasized the importance of maintaining their stronghold on Capitol Hill, pointing to a healthy economy as proof of concept.
With hotly contested seats in many traditionally red states, some Republicans have taken to extreme measures to ensure they maintain their position. Suppression of minority voters has been well-documented in states like Florida, Georgia, North Dakota and Nevada, but many cases may still slip by in the flurry of election-day coverage. We’ve been keeping an eye out for any sketchy dealings at the ballot box and now present them to you here, in our round-up of Election Day shadiness.
In Gwinnett County, Ga., voters have waited more than four hours after voting machines malfunctioned and provisional paper ballots were handed out instead. This came after Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, repeatedly refused requests to provide paper back-ups. Georgia is just one of five states that will not be using paper ballots.
This is just the latest in reported voter suppression tactics from Kemp. He’s used his office to hold up tens of thousands of minority voter-registration applications for things as minor as differences in name hyphenation across identification records, purged 668,000 voters in 2017 alone, and, just this week, announced that he was investigating Democrats for “hacking the state’s voter registration files” without any evidence for such an accusation.
Voters on Detroit’s East Side were turned away this morning due to missing voting machines, according to WXYZ Detroit. “Officials said there was a miscommunication about where the machine was located in the school,” WXYZ reports. “After learning it was in a locked closet, workers said they were left with no key to open the door.” After about an hour and a half, workers finally had the site up and running.
Michigan, which swung red during the 2016 presidential election, saw a huge increase in voter participation this year, so much so that some polling locations for primary elections were unequipped for the heavy turnout.
North Carolina’s Republican legislature passed a law just months before the midterms that reduced the state’s early polling locations by 20 percent, according to an NPR report. More than 60 percent of the state voted early in the 2016 presidential election, and the law has received criticism from both sides. The state is the site of four contested House seats, and could make the difference between a Republican and Democratic majority.
That decrease in early polling has led to longer lines on Election Day. In Wake County, election officials have cited numerous technical difficulties. The North Carolina state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said in a statement that “high humidity levels are making it impossible for ballots to be fed through tabulators.” The board stresses that the votes will be audited in order to ensure proper tabulation, but Republicans have well, a history with contested vote counts, to say the least.
Texas is the site of perhaps the most nationally visible midterm race, between incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. When voters turned up this morning, many machines were reportedly unresponsive, according to the Texas Tribune.
At an East Houston polling location, voters were told that only seven of the 14 machines were working. After another 20 minutes of waiting, they were informed that all of the machines had stopped working—they were told that the machines “had not been charged overnight.” Voters were told to return later, as the machines wouldn’t be ready until the afternoon, but some voters were unable to.
Harris County, the state’s biggest county and one of its most solidly Democratic, has been a major hotbed for Election Day problems. “At least 18 polling locations in Harris County either did not open on time or were only partially open on time with some locations at first operating with one or two machines when they were supposed to have eight or even 16 in some cases,” the Tribune reports.
Polling locations across New York City have seen technical malfunctions throughout the day, according to a CBS local report. Locations in Crown Heights, Greenpoint and Flushing have all had scanners jam due to high traffic and wet weather. New York does not allow early voting or mail-in ballots, and Election Day is not a holiday, which leads to exorbitantly long lines.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio blamed the Board of Elections. “We offered them $20 million to make improvements and reforms. They won’t accept it,” he said.