I. In Focus This Week
A thousand little cuts, but nothing life threatening
The 2014 Midterm Election comes off with a few hitches
Millions of Americans headed to the polls Tuesday for the 2014 Midterm Election and what greeted them was a mixed bag.
There were glitches, snafus, hitches, hiccups, lines, and of course some oddities, but there were no systematic or colossal problems nationwide.
While overall turnout — complete numbers obviously still pending — was better than throughout the primary season, it was still low and may potentially be a record low.
According to the Associated Press, early numbers indicate a 36.6 percent overall turnout. If, as NPR noted, that number does not exceed 38.1 percent once absentees and provisional are counted it will be the lowest turnout since midterm elections in 1942 — during World War II.
In this week’s newsletter we’ll take a brief look at how things went on Tuesday and highlight some of the problems and some of the bright spots. You can also review our Election Day Dispatches.
In the coming weeks we’ll do more of a deep-dive into some of the bigger problems and how elections officials are preparing to tackle those problems in the next two years.
There were scattered reports of voting machine problems in several states.
Probably the biggest problems were in southeastern Virginia where there were multiple reports of voting machines malfunctioning in several different precincts. In all, it seems that 32 voting machines were affected. The machines were taken out of service and state and local officials are conducting a review.
In Bexar County, Texas voters reported that gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s name was left off the ballot. Initially elections officials said that the complaining voter had photoshopped a photo of the ballot, but ES&S performed an analysis of the voting machine in question and confirmed that the name was omitted from the ballot.
With the legal wrangling in the days leading up to the election, a lot of attention was focused on the roll out of voter ID (or the lack thereof) in several states. While there were definitely some reported issues, at first blush it does not appear to be the problem than many feared, although as one NPR reporter noted, we’ll never know how many people didn’t show up because they didn’t have an ID.
In Arkansas, the ACLU complained that poll workers were improperly asking voters to show a photo ID.
The Center for American Progress complained about a “last minute” decision by Alabama to disallow the use of municipal housing authority IDs as one of the acceptable forms of voter ID.
This was the first statewide rollout for Virginia’s voter ID law and according to published reports there were no problems with the law.
Some poll workers in one Wisconsin town were accused of asking people for a photo ID in order to cast a ballot even though the law had been struck down for this election.
Secretary of State races
All incumbent secretary of states were re-elected on Tuesday including in Kansas and New Mexico where the races were particularly close.
Here is the list of the new secretaries of state (or chief elections official). We’ll help you get to know them more in a future newsletter.
Alabama: John Merrill (R)
Alaska: We’re still waiting
Arizona: Michele Reagan (R)
California: Alex Padilla (D)
Colorado: Wayne Williams (R)
Idaho: Lawerence Denney (R)
Iowa: Paul Pate (R)
Minnesota: Steve Simon (DFL)
Nevada: Barbara Cegavaske (R)
Rhode Island: Nellie Gorbea (D)
South Dakota: Shantel Krebs (R)
Wyoming: Ed Murray (R)
Voters gave mixed signals on elections-relate ballot initiatives.
In Connecticut and Missouri voters defeated measures that would have allowed for early voting in each state. The difference being though that the Connecticut measure had the backing of state elections officials whereas in Missouri, state and local officials opposed the ballot initiative.
Voters in Montana overwhelming voted to continue the practice of election-day registration—in fact almost 5,000 voters used it on Election Day!
For the second time, Oregon voters chose to stick with the state’s traditional primary system instead of making the move to a top-two system.
In Illinois, voters approved a state constitutional amendment that would create a voter bill of rights.
Numerous jurisdictions made the move to vote centers for their first general election and the roll-out was mixed.
In two Indiana counties, Floyd and Vigo, there were some issues. In Vigo there were long lines throughout the day. In Floyd, initially five of the county’s 11 vote centers could not open due to problems, which then created lines at the remaining six vote centers.
Polls in several states were forced to stay open due to a variety of reasons.
In Connecticut, polls in Hartford remained open for an additional hour after the registrar’s office failed to provide poll books to the polling places in time for the start of voting.
Five polling places in Lake County, Illinois were forced by court order to remain open until 9 p.m. The suit, filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleged that Lake County Clerk Willard Helander failed to comply with state election law allowing residents to register and then vote when polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters in one precinct in Robeson County, North Carolina got an additional 45 minutes to cast ballots because the polling place had to close for about the same amount of time earlier in the day when it ran out of ballots.
Because polls opened about an hour late in Shannon County, South Dakota, they were held open for an additional hour because state law requires that polls be open for 12 days.
While there were certainly scattered problems nationwide on Tuesday, no state seemed to suffer quite as much as Illinois.
The problems began in the morning when Chicago had to rely on about 250 back-up election judges because many judges failed to show up after receiving a “malicious” robocall over the weekend.
In several jurisdictions in Illinois voters waited in long lines, some for up to nine hours, in order to take advantage of the state’s new same-day registration law. In Chicago, the very last vote was cast at 3 a.m.
While there were definitely some reports of lines — other than just in states offering same-day registration — there was nothing like the situations that occurred two years ago during the presidential election. Whether that was because of the overall low turnout or because of the change in procedures and policies since 2012, remains to be seen.
In what we’ll tongue-in-check label a first world problem, several state and local elections websites went down for a period of time on Tuesday.
Eighteen government sites designed by Florida company SOE Software crashed on Tuesday due to higher than expected traffic, according to a spokeswoman.
In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections is investigating why the state’s website was down for a period of time on Tuesday.
Some Minnesota localities rolled out e-pollbooks on Tuesday and election judges seemed pleased with the new technology.
You can’t blame the lava! Polling places on the Big Island were able to remain open on Tuesday because the lava flow threatening local communities had stalled. However, even though all of the state’s polling places were open and there were only a few reports of problems, Hawaii recorded its lowest turnout ever.
Polling place issues
And now, in what is always our favorite part of the Election Day roundup, the hodge-podge of random issues that affected polling places on Tuesday.
In Tucson, Arizona a gas leak closed one polling place. Los Angeles County, California voters were evacuated from a polling place after a bomb threat. In Brentwood, Pennsylvania, a small fire in a polling place caused a bit of a scare that closed the polls for about 40 minutes. And in Volusia County, Florida there was a report of an attempted abduction outside of a polling place.
An Orange County, California a teen pollworker was removed from her job after it was discovered she was sending out obscene tweets. Police had to be called to on Oakland County, Michigan polling place after poll workers complained that observers were intimidating voters. Voters ducked for cover in Dorchester, Massachusetts when a shooting occurred outside their polling place. A mentally ill man serving as a poll worker in Green Bay, Wisconsin was caused disruptions at two polling places, state and federal authorities were called.
And although we’ve found no reports of cars crashing into polling places this election, there were at least two incidents where car crashes affected voting. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, cars that crashed into a power poll cut the power to several polling places for a while.
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