Elections in the News

Most news sources informed that things went smoothly on Election Day, although there were several reports of isolated irregularities. The Wall Street Journal described the election as “largely free of high-profile voting problems or irregularities.” The Washington Post mentioned that “by the end of the day, few verifiable allegations of major voter intimidation or fraud had been lobbed” and that “most complaints were pedestrian.” Similarly, ABC News concluded that “there were numerous reports of small voting problems, but nothing consistent in terms of a national trend.” (Additional summaries can be found here and here.)

Nonetheless, there were scattered complaints of voter intimidation, problems with voting equipment, voter fraud at the polls, use of robocalls to spread misinformation in an attempt to disenfranchise minorities, poor poll worker training, late opening of polling places, and registration problems. Below is a summary of some of the most salient cases and complaints reported across the country.

In Nevada, Angle filed a complaint concerning intimidation and coercion of state casino workers (read story here). Regarding the earlier complaint of voting machines preselecting candidates during the early voting period, election officials reported that “operator error and uncoordinated machine screen malfunctions appear to be responsible for the complaints.”

In New York, even though there were scattered cases of malfunctioning optical scanners and complaints of lack of poll worker training (for instance the New York Times reported that “some voters grumbled that election workers still seemed confused about what procedures to follow” and a polling place coordinator told WNYC that workers “are people who worked 10-20 years at our poll site, but they are afraid of the machine, they don’t take the training of the scanner”), most news sources agree that the incidence of these problems was lower than in the September primary election (you can find some of these stories here, here, here, and here).

In Pennsylvania, there were complaints of vote flipping caused by poorly calibrated touch-screen machines. According to The New Republic these problems happen when “a voter touches the screen to vote for one candidate and the screen registers the other candidate instead” (read full story here). Also, late opening and long lines were reported in polling places in Pittsburgh. In one of them “a judge ordered several more voting machines to be brought in.”

In California, The Sacramento Bee reported that the Los Angeles registrar office received unconfirmed reports of robocalls and mailers aimed at misinforming Latino voters about the day of the election (further details about these allegations can be found here). Moving to a different state, there were also allegations of attempts at misinforming voters in Kansas, where robocalls were reportedly used to tell voters that “they need to bring their voter registration card to the polls as well as proof of home ownership in order to cast a ballot — neither of which is true. The calls also state the election date as Nov. 3.”

There were also isolated allegations of voter fraud. For instance, a CNN story described a complaint of voting rights violations in Minnesota. Specifically, “prosecutors in the northern city of Brainerd were looking into a report that staffers at a home for the mentally handicapped were filling out absentee ballots for patients last week.” And in California, AP reported that a poll worker was arrested “on suspicion of stealing up to 75 ballots, a voting roster and other election materials in a bizarre heist.”

Also, several news sources reported that final results could be delayed in states with large number of write-in, overseas, regular absentee and provisional ballots, such as Alaska, California, and Ohio. The Washington Post announced that “too-close-to-call vote counts, the complications of military and mail-in ballots and, in one notable case, a surging write-in campaign are all likely to leave as many questions as answers in some of the most competitive House, Senate and governor’s races across the country.”

Final results could also be delayed in races in North Carolina and Oakland where Instant Runoff Voting (sometimes called Alternative Vote or Ranked Choice Voting) was used for the first time, or in the City of San Francisco where the system has been in use since 2004 (read story here).