Ballot troubles: Long lines, vote-changing machines reported amid record-breaking early turnout

A voter casts her ballot during early voting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 14, 2016. © Jim Young
New ID requirements, voting machines casting the wrong vote, unfamiliar or distant polling places, and names missing from voting rolls are just some of the challenges that are starting to disrupt voting leading up to Election Day.

The November presidential election will be the first without federal protections under the Voting Rights Act, with 14 states creating laws requiring voter ID.

Early voting has begun in several states, including Texas, North Carolina and Florida, with record turnout – although voters for both parties have reported experiencing problems with voting machines.

Texas

Residents in two different Texas counties on Monday reported problems with electronic voting machines which have replaced traditional paper ballots.

In Amarillo, a woman said she tried to vote Republican but was shocked as she watched the machine switch her ballot to Clinton/Kane.

At nearly a dozen Denton County polling locations issues occurred with the controlling unit that checks in and issues unique codes for voters to cast ballots, causing hour-long delays, according to election officials, reported the Denton-Record Chronicle.

For an hour to more than two hours, voters were unable to cast ballots at 11 of the 22 polling locations in Denton while election personnel swapped out the equipment.

All of the equipment was repaired by 11am, according to election officials.

“The important thing was to fix the problem, and that’s what we did,” Lannie Noble, Denton County elections administrator, told the Denton-Record Chronicle. “As soon as we found out there was an issue, we addressed it as expediently as we could.”

In Tarrant County, a woman casting a vote for the Republicans saw it flipped to Democrat.

The bigger issue was longer lines for voting as records were broken in counties in Dallas and Tarrant for turnout, with each reporting about 43,000 early voters. Bexar and Travis counties reported about 30,000 first-day voters apiece.

"We just want to get it over with," Sam Tabb told the Houston Chronicle as he stood in line at a polling station in Pasadena. "We will be glad when this whole thing is over. It's just been a real zoo. In my lifetime, it's probably the worst election ever."

Florida – swing state

Early in-person voting began on Monday in Florida and long lines meant voting took 30-40 minutes, but there were no reports of machine malfunction or voting issues, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Nearly 300,000 went to early voting sites on Monday as first-day voting was offered in 50 counties. Another 1.3 million have mailed in ballots.

The Associated Press reported Republicans have a slight edge in early voting. Numbers show more than 665,000 Republicans have cast ballots compared to more than 658,000 Democrats.

Changes in state law increased the number of days and hours allowed for early voting after long delays in 2012.

The state also changed limits on the types of locations that can be used for early voting, allowing for larger venues. Being able to use fairgrounds and community centers allows room for more voting stations and ballot printers, which should accommodate voters faster. Voters need to show ID with a signature.

Tennessee

Voting locations in Rutherford and DeKalb counties experienced server issues last Thursday, causing delays for early voters, according to WKRN.

Dennis Stanley, an administrator with the DeKalb County Election Commission, said paper ballots were provided so people could still cast their vote.

North Carolina – swing state

Election officials and the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) warned that electronic voting machines can be sensitive and voters should review their choices before casting a final ballot.
In a statement, the NAACP said voters in at least five counties statewide have reported that machines will select an incorrect candidate. Among the counties were New Hanover, Cumberland, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Catawba.

"In all instances of which we are currently aware, voters were able to fix the problem by reviewing their choices and fixing the error before submitting their electronic ballots," the statement said, according to WWAY-TV.

The group said it is, and will continue, investigating the complaints through Election Day.

“Throughout the early voting period and on election day itself, on behalf of our membership, the NC NAACP and our partners will be investigating all complaints received by our members, and by voters our members are assisting across the state,” said NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber. “We are gravely serious at this time about protecting the voting rights of North Carolinians. No voter should feel intimidated in this election or concerned that your vote will not count.”

Barber said, “In every election, there are cases where electronic machinery has problems. We ask the State Board to alert voters immediately of what efforts are being made to remove or fix malfunctioning machines.”

Ohio – swing state

A federal court ordered Ohio last week to allow millions of unlawfully purged voters to be allowed to cast a provisional ballot this November, after the state's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted (who also claimed the election can't be rigged) fought an earlier court order to restore those voters to the rolls.