I. In Focus This Week
The election that was
A state-by-state look at the 2016 General Election
By M. Mindy Moretti
(Editor’s Note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, electionlineWeekly will not publish next Thursday the 24th and electionlineToday will not publish on Thursday the 24th and Friday the 25th. We hope you have a very happy (and peaceful!) Thanksgiving and we sincerely hope that the hardworking elections officials, staff and volunteers can take a break.)
The 2016 election cycle seemed to drag on forever and even today there are still several million ballots left to be counted, results to be canvassed, audited and certified.
Last week we took a broad view of how things went and this week we’ll take a closer look at how Election Day 2016 went in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There is still a lot more to cover from the election that was and we’ll do that throughout the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.
But for now, here’s a state-by-state look at the election.
Although not quite a record turnout, people stood in line for up-to an hour to vote on Election Day in the Yellowhammer State. This was also the first presidential election where a photo ID was required to vote and there were no reports of any voters being turned away for not having the proper ID. There were sporadic reports of broken voting machines, relocated polling places and voters concerned about poll workers not being properly trained. In Colbert County, a poll worker handed out pre-marked sample ballots to Democrats at a site in Leighton. College students at Troy University and A&M both ran into trouble with voting when it was discovered their completed voter registration forms were never submitted.
Election Day in Alaska began at 7 a.m. and in Healy, thanks to Denali Borough Code, one election worker — Tina Graham — stepped outside at exactly 7 a.m. and declared the polls open in the style of a town crier. There were reports that at least a dozen voting machines across The Frontier State malfunctioned on Election Day. Although officials said those voting machine problems were “typical” on voting machine in Anchorage went down after someone spilled coffee on it. The truly big news out of the largest state in the union was that Alaska voters approved a voter initiative that would create automatic voter registration for those collecting Permanent Fund Dividends. The measure was approved 65 percent to 35 percent.
Many eyes were on Arizona following problems during the presidential primary. And while there were issues with lines and ballot shortages, nothing compared to the problems of the primary. In Cochise County, two cities ran out of ballots and some voters waited up to 90 minutes to vote. County elections officials attributed the long waits to several factors including turnout and inexperienced voters. Results in Pima County were later than normal, but the county elections department had announced that would be the case long before the polls closed because they were counting ballots at the county elections office, not the polling places. There were also some voting machine glitches in some areas. A water main break near a polling site in Coconino County impacted voters for a while on Tuesday. In Apache County, the vote count was delayed because new equipment did not function the way elections officials had hoped that it would. Along longtime Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell was defeated in her bid for re-election. Also of note, as of press time, thousands of ballots remain to be counted.
About 587,000 Arkansans early voted this year, but that didn’t ease the lines that some polling places saw when the polls opened on the 8th. Despite the long lines and busy day, the atmosphere at the polls was described as calm with only a few glitches. Voters in some areas of Baxter County did run out of paper ballots and were forced to use an electronic voting machine in the polling place if they wanted to cast a ballot. The Jefferson County board of elections rejected 73 provisional ballots, of which 35 were from students at the University of Arkansas. The biggest issue in The Natural State came in Scott County were elections officials forgot to count one voting machine containing early votes. About 476 votes were not counted.
As of press time, there are still millions of ballots waiting to be processed in California. Some counties will finish up before Thanksgiving, but it could be December before others are complete. Early voting in California was hugely popular this year, but that did not ease some of the Election Day lines and headaches. Some voters in Los Angeles County waited up to two hours to vote after there were issues with ballot marking devices and rosters arrived late. In San Francisco, where a columbarium that serves as a polling place, the site ran out of voting booths and so voters were forced to fill out their ballots on steps next to urns and crypts. In Shasta County, the secretary of state’s website was providing wrong polling information for some visitors. Elections observers in several Norther California counties reported that polling places were running low on Spanish-language ballots. Orange County Registrar Neal Kelly had to play referee and break up two “small” incidents at polling places. Several polling places in Los Angeles County had to be place on lock down after a nearby shoot. High turnout let to late results in Tulare County. In San Diego County Rep. Darrell Issa said that he is mounting an effort to challenge the legality of some of the ballots that are still being counted in his yet undecided race.
Tuesday marked the first election for Colorado’s new vote-by-mail/vote center system and by-and-large things went smoothly, but there were some hiccups. During the day, there was a 29-minute glitch with state’s voter registration system which affected same-day voter registration and forced some voters to cast provisional ballots. A judge denied a request to keep the polls open for two additional hours. A rush of last-minute voters right before the polls closed in Montezuma County forced the vote count to push into the early hours of Wednesday. An overloaded computer server lead to delayed results in Pueblo County. Also, then number of ballot styles the county offered slowed the process. Voters approved Proposition 107 and 108 which will move the state to a presidential primary system in 2020. The system will allow unaffiliated voters to vote in either party’s primary.
Although there were lines in The Nutmeg State this election, most of those were the result of same-day registration. Same-day registration problems have plagued the state through several elections. About 20,000 people used this system this year. Voters using the Barone Campus Center in Fairfield County faced some technical difficulties. The debut of a new statewide election results website didn’t go according to plan with results disappearing from the site for a while and with the entire system temporarily shutting down. For the first time in more than a decade, Hartford voters decided not to election a third registrar. Also in Hartford, a voter was knocked to the ground by a truck. Voters in several areas were greeted with broken voting machines when the polls opened.
There were few reports of problems in The First State, although like many localities, polling places experienced lines throughout the day. There were scattered reports of voting machine malfunctions and the police were called to one polling place to deal with loud campaigning, but the residents of Delaware seemed more focused on the significance of the day. According to The News Journal, Allen Meads brought five of his eight children to the polls in Quaker Hill. The West Side resident said he brought the kids, ages 7 to 14, to show them “the significance of voting.” One Wilmington City Council race will be recounted because there was only an 11-vote difference following the first count.
District of Columbia
Although anecdotally we heard some stories about voter registration issues in the District of Columbia there were no widespread problems and the city reported its results in a timely manner. This may have been one of the most problem-free elections the city has seen in while. Like many other locales, D.C. also broke an early voting record with more than 101,000 voters casting an early ballot.
What a difference 16-years makes! This time back in 2000, Florida was the talk of the nation and while the state still loomed large during early voting, once the results for Florida were announced Tuesday night, that was pretty much it. That doesn’t of course mean it was smooth sailing in The Sunshine State. Duval County suffered a couple of different issues with scanners and voters receiving the wrong polling information. Three polling places in Palm Beach County suffered technical issues. And because it wouldn’t be an election without some sort of altercation, in Jupiter, two voters got into a disagreement which lead to shoving and ultimately lead to one pepper spraying the other. And the fighting was limited to voters either! Two precinct captains in Broward County were dismissed after getting into a verbal altercation. In Sarasota County, sheriff’s deputies responded to a polling place after someone brought a Nerf gun. Although pundits were up-in-the air about the slowness of Broward County’s results reporting, older software typically slows the county reporting.
Thanks to early voting and online voter registration, Georgia saw record-breaking turnout this election. Overall things went well, but the day wasn’t without issues. One Atlanta polling place stayed open an extra 20 minutes after voting was halted for 20 minutes earlier in the day due to a nearby fire. Paper ballots slowed the vote count in Floyd County.
It was a relatively smooth election in The Aloha State and unlike in years past there were no erupting volcanoes to force the relocation of polling places. Early voting turnout was much higher this year in Hawaii. Kauai saw its highest voter turnout since 2008 although overall the state’s turnout rate dropped below the 2012 election. The turnout for 2016 is still better than 2014 when just 52 percent of registered voters turned out.
Voters with disabilities in Canyon County had to rely on curbside voting after an alternative entrance to an inaccessible polling site could not be found by Election Day. In Payette County, at least six polling places ran low on paper ballots due to unexpected high turnout. Voting hours were extended at five Ada County precincts after Democrats sued to keep them open because voters were confused about their new locations. Back in Canyon County, illegible ballots slowed the reporting of results. And Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said he has a new appreciation for what the county elections officials do after serving as a poll worker.
Early voting was wildly popular in Illinois this year and Rock Island County attributed that popularity to a smoother Election Day. Election judges are people too and that was true in Chicago where about seven of them had to be removed throughout the day on Election Day for a variety of reasons including falling asleep and throwing furniture. Voting machine problems surfaced in polling places in Rockford and Winnebago counties. DuPage County ran into some problems with vote tallying on election night.
While there is an ongoing investigation into potentially fraudulent voter registrations, Election Day was fairly typical in Indiana and in fact, according to published reports, voters found fewer problems at the polls than they typically do. Long lines did contribute to some delayed vote counts. There were some voting machine issues in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, one Merrillville woman did run into some issues and found out that she couldn’t vote because she had died.
Iowa may have played an outsized role at the start of the 2016 election cycles, but Election Day itself turned out to be a relatively quiet day in The Hawkeye State. A clerical mistake in Polk County had one voter returning to the polls late in the day after she had been turned away in the morning because the system reported that she had already voted, which she had not. Voters seemed to heed Secretary of State Paul Pate’s plea to go early if they were planning on registering and voting on Election Day because there were no reports of problems.
With a judge putting an end to Kansas’ dual registration system in the days leading up to the election, there were only the typical Election Day problems in The Sunflower State. Sedgwick County experienced some voting machines issues when the polls opened at 7 a.m. In Finney County, because the county’s website did not provide polling place maps in English and in Spanish, as required by law, the maps were taken off the site and visitors were redirected to the secretary of state’s site. About half of the provisional ballots in Riley County have been rejected. Heavy turnout and an as-yet solved problem resulted in about a 14-hour delay in election results in Johnson County.
There were long lines at several polling sites throughout the Bluegrass State and in Lexington there were reports of scattered voting machine issues. It didn’t crash into a polling place, but a car crashing into a utility pole near a polling place did cause some problems for voters in Louisville with some voters ditching their cars and walking to the voting location. Students in Warren County faced some polling place issues with some students living in the same dorm room at Buckner being assigned to different polling sites. Some polling places in Scott County ran out of ballots. And sad news for Jefferson County voters — no I Voted stickers. And in some cool news, the Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville set up a mock polling location on the Sunday before the election help new citizens who would be voting for the first time on Tuesday learn about the voting process in the U.S.
Voting machines were mixed-up in Ponchatoula Parish, but the ballots in the machines were the same. LSU students had issues casting their ballots with their university-issued ID. With thousands of voters being forced to find new polling places due to flooding earlier this year, things were relatively smooth in East Baton Rouge although there were some hiccups. Despite long lines in Acadiana, there were few reports of any problems. Voters approved an amendment that will establish new qualification standards for registrars and more disclosure in the hiring process.
Clerks throughout Maine reported high turnout, but few problems throughout Election Day. Scarborough was forced to count thousands of absentee ballots on Wednesday after they were missed on election night. Several recounts were requested throughout the state. And the biggest story coming out of Maine on Election Day was the approval of Question 5 which will move the state to a ranked choice voting system beginning in 2018.
Like most other states, long lines were the rule of the day throughout much of Maryland but those seemed due to turnout and not any widespread problems. Several polling places in Baltimore did open late. There were some polling place scanner issues though. In addition to a statewide audit of the results, the state will be reviewing what led to the long lines on Election Day. And in what may be one of our favorite stories from Election Day, a Harford County couple who had planned to vote on Election Day at their local polling place had to scratch those plans after the wife going into labor. Instead, their neighbor drove 150 miles throughout the day to pick up an emergency absentee ballot for the couple, have them sign it, then pick up the absentee ballots and then return the absentee ballots. Sometimes it takes a village to cast a ballot.
Early voting kicked off with a bang in Massachusetts with many people taking advantage of it for the very first time. By all reports, the debut was successful. On Election Day, in Agawan a broken tabulator slowed the process for a while. There were also reports of voting machine malfunctions in Marlborough, Springfield and Lawrence. In Hadley, it wasn’t voting machines that slowed the process but nearby construction.
Election Day in Michigan, while not smooth sailing, was not plagued with problems either. Some of the biggest issues on Election Day were with voters and not the process. There were reports of voter intimidation in East Lansing. In Ypsilanti an altercation occurred that included racial slurs and one voter spitting on another. Voters in Detroit faced voting machine problems and were angry about the lack of “I Voted” stickers. There were also no reported problems with ballot selfies.
This was the first year of no-excuse absentee voting in Minnesota and it was hugely popular. Although there were early morning crowds at polling places, those seemed to thin by mid-day. The release of results in Jackson County were delayed, but not because any glitches, simply because of the county’s process. A software glitch did delay the results in Dakota and Scott counties.
Like most states, there were reports of high turnout and long lines in The Magnolia State. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann reported that overall things went well and that most of the calls to the state’s election hotline were for polling place and voter registration information.
Missouri suffered the same fate that many did on Election Day — long lines but no major disruptions. Some voters in Noel did report being turned away from the polls. And in St. Louis County that saw the county having to take a Mulligan during its primary, things went much more smoothly this time around. Missouri voters selected Republican Jay Ashcroft to serve as their next secretary of state and they also approved Measure 6 which will require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Turnout in some Montana counties exceeded expectations. And same-day voter registrations slowed down the process for some. Absentee voting also saw a record turnout. Republican Cory Stapleton will be Montana’s next secretary of state.
Lines formed early at polling places in Lincoln and voting remained steady throughout the day. Some close races will come down to provisional ballots. And the precincts in Cedar County that rely only on mail ballots saw higher turnout than other precincts.
Washoe County saw a record turnout for the 2016 election. The county also suffered a delay in results reporting after a computer glitch. There were no arrests and only a few disruptions at Nevada polling places. The first-ever voting on Paiute reservations in Nevada drew heavy turnout.
Voter turnout was heavy throughout the Granite State and the overall turnout shattered an eight-year-old record. Poll workers and voters did face some snags on Election Day. In Dover, elections officials extended voting till 8pm after an email was sent to about 250 voters with the wrong polling place closing time.
Huge turnout lead to long lines and delays throughout areas in the Garden State. There towns will be facing a federal review after it was discovered poll workers were asking for voter ID even though the state does not require it. Like students in other states, college-students in New Jersey faced voter registration mix-ups on Election Day preventing them from voting. A printing error caused mail ballots in Burlington County to be hand counted.
There were lines and malfunctions in the Empire State on Election Day, but none of the major meltdowns that some portions of the state saw during the presidential preference primary. A woman at an Upper East Side polling place said that she was groped while waiting to vote. Several polling sites in Brooklyn and Crown Heights opened late. Two women in a Midtown polling place removed their shirts and created a scene. A polling place in Hartsdale momentarily lost power.
Election Day did not go off without a hitch in the Tarheel State, in fact issues continue at press time in several counties. Turnout was steady throughout the state and there were reports of polling place problems statewide. Results were delayed in Mecklenburg County. A federal judge kept polling places open late in Durham County and the county is still struggling with the process and possible lawsuits more than a week later. The director of the Cumberland County board of elections disputed reports that there were voting machine problems. Provisional ballots were up in some counties but not statewide. Wake County is reviewing 7,000 provisional ballots.
Voting went smoothly on Election Day in North Dakota although some North Dakota State University students said they were discouraged from voting. Officials in Cass County had to fix a sign about voter ID that some complained was confusing. Although there were lines, voter turnout was lower than expected.
There used to be a time that election observers would hold their breath on Election Day in Ohio waiting for the reports of problems. While those the election wasn’t problem free this year, there definitely were not the widespread problems the state has seen in the past. There were of course problems at the polls, but those mostly seemed isolated to specific polling places. In Montgomery County, an elections official had to be removed from the polls. Some polling places suffered power problems. There were some voting glitches in Trumbull County. In Cuyahoga County, the police were called after a voter threated to bring a gun. One poll worker in Marion County had to be removed for making disparaging remarks. Greene County suffered several problems early in the voting day.
A polling place in Sapulpa lost power on Election Day but voters were still able to cast their ballots with emergency lighting and the ballots being placed into temporary boxes. Power was out for about 30 minutes. There were also some long lines and malfunctioning voting machines in some areas. Results were delayed in Osage County because of a malfunctioning tabulation machine. And there were some sticky fingers causing problems in Tulsa County when voters kept taking the pens provided to cast the paper ballots. Elections officials had to rush out emergency supplies.
When the experts say you run some of the best elections in the country and every votes by mail, there’s usually not much to report from Election Day. This year however, Oregon conducted its first election since the state instituted automatic voter registration. Turnout for those who were automatically registered was at about 42 percent. And overall, while the percentage may not have been the highest the state has ever seen, the number of people who voted this year broke a record. In Benton County, voters approved a ballot measure that will move the county to the ranked choice voting system for local elections. In the hotly contested secretary of state race, Dennis Richardson (R) won. And because we’re always a sucker for fun baby announcements, this Oregon couple used the election as a great way to let family and friends know that a new voter is on the way.
Despite some of the pre-election hyperbole about rigged election and poll watchers, things went relatively well in the Commonwealth on the 8th. There were of course reports of voting machine issues and some reports of intimidation. Some voters were incorrectly asked to show ID at several polling places across the state. And an election judge in Springdale Borough is facing charges after failing to show up on the 8th. The polling place opened about two and half hours late. There were reports that voters who registered to vote at DMV locations throughout the state experienced problems voting.
Rhode Island rolled out new voting equipment this election and while there were no reports of mechanical problems with the ballot scanners, some polling places were so overwhelmed with voters that additional scanners had to be brought in to handle the crowds. Pawtucket officials are seeking answers from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea why some voters were forced to wait up to two hours to feed their ballots into the scanners. A polling place in downtown Providence was evacuated for about 20 minutes because of an unclaimed bag. Three General Assembly candidates are seeking recounts.
Absentee voting set a record in South Carolina and Election Day itself was also busy with heavy voting reported statewide. There were some reports of issues in Sumter County that were chalked up to both human and machine errors. Horry County voters faced lines due to some precinct problems. And in Johns Island, a pregnant voter’s water broke while she was waiting to cast her ballot. Elections officials quickly got her through the process and on the way to the hospital.
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs reported relatively smooth sailing on Election Day and noted that her office was receiving numerous phone calls from voters to make sure they are actually registered. There were of course the ubiquitous long lines at numerous polling places. Some students at Augustana University in Sioux Falls were unable to vote after their voter registration forms were not submitted by the student government that conducted a voter registration drive. One prankster pulled a fired alarm in Rapid City which delayed voting about 15 minutes. A faulty belt on a Brown County voting machine caused the results to be delayed. Voters failed to approve a constitutional amendment that would have made elections nonpartisan.
Like many other states, Tennessee saw robust early voting, but those numbers did not necessarily translate to robust Election Day numbers. Although Knox County was still counting past midnight, the overall numbers did not equal those cast in 2012. Voting machines in Wilson County went down during the morning rush, but were brought back online relatively quickly. Shelby County faced major delays in reporting results and may ultimately face fines from the state over the delays. And while for as long as we can remember, every Election Day has included someone driving their car into a polling place somewhere in the country, this year we had to settle for a voter having their car stolen while voting in Knox County. Voters in Knoxville voted to move the city’s elections to even years.
Texas saw record-breaking early voting turnout and that turnout seemed to help ease some of the lines and issues on Election Day. Although there were some minor issues in Brazos County, there were few reports of issues in Bexar County. In Grand Prairie, polls were kept open late after an elections judge passed away in his home and failed to open the polls on time. Some voting machines in Spring were malfunctioning causing lines. Students at University of Texas polling sites reported waiting in long lines. Voting sites in Eastland County briefly lost power. An election judge in Dallas County was assaulted and robbed while picking up doughnuts for elections workers. Denton County was forced to recount ballots. And while much was made of the state’s voter ID law in the days and weeks leading up to the election, there were few reported problems on Election Day.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Although there is often a lot of drama leading up to elections in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Election Day itself went smoothly in the U.S. territory with no reports of problems although the Joint Board of Elections is investigating one claim of double voting.
This year marked the first presidential election when many Utahns could cast their ballots by mail instead of at traditional Election Day polling places and the results were a mixed bag. Salt Lake County suffered the biggest problems with the new vote-by-mail system. Many voters chose to cast their ballots at Election Day polling sites instead of by mail leaving some in line until after midnight. San Juan County, which was also voting by mail, reported its largest turnout in county history. Memory cards in voting machines throughout Washington County were inadvertently wiped during programming causing huge problems for early morning voters. While paper ballots were available, that forced voters to wait in longer lines. The problems were repaired by about noon.
Election Day in The Green Mountain State was relatively smooth although there were a few glitches reported. Most of those complaints though came from clerks about the state’s vote-counting machines and not from issues with voters. Vermont also broke a record with its early-voting ballots. Secretary of State Jim Condos was re-elected for the third time.
Election Day 2016 kicked off with huge lines throughout much of the state, especially in Northern Virginia locations like Arlington County and Lynchburg. There were scatter reports of voting machine glitches to coincide with the long lines. There were computer problems in Henrico County — using new voting technology for the first time in a presidential election. In the Richmond area there were also reports of voting machine glitches. Some voters in Roanoke County reported waiting up to two hours to vote. In Albemarle County, the registrar reported that supporters of one candidate were blocking the entrance to the polling place. A record number of Virginians voted absentee.
This was the first election when thousands of ex-felons had the opportunity to vote after having their voting rights restored and there were many great stories about that experience including a story out of Richmond of a precinct-captain reporting getting “goosebumps” when helping an ex-felon vote for the first time.
Voter turnout in this vote-by-mail state had already hit 45 percent in some counties before the dawn of November 8. As of November 15, turnout was at 70 percent. Record turnout for the state was 84.6 percent in 2008. Incumbent Secretary of State Kim Wyman was elected to a second term by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin.
Following a record-breaking early voting turnout, Election Day turnout about 57.2 percent, which was higher than 2012. Polling places in Kanawha County were force to relocated after devastating floods earlier this year, but there were no reports of issues with the new polling place. Undoubtedly the biggest news out of The Mountain State on Election Day was the unseating of incumbent Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) by Mac Warner (R), a retired military attorney, veteran and former U.S. State Department contractor in Afghanistan.
Wisconsin made a lot headlines on election night, but fewer on Election Day although the state was not immune to issues. Early voting, which began in September in some areas, set a record this election cycle. Despite the lower-than-normalturnout, some polling places did run out of ballots. Waukesha County saw long lines at the start of the day. Results in Lafayette were reported about five hours later than all other Chippewa County towns and officials are trying to figure out why.
This was the first presidential election with Wisconsin’s new voter ID rules in place and clerks reported some voters being angry about not having the proper ID. In Milwaukee, Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city’s Election Commission said the city saw a decline of about 41,000 voters which he attributed to the states’ voter ID law. “We saw some of the greatest declines were in the districts we projected would have the most trouble with voter ID requirements," Albrecht told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Although there is no way gauge how many people didn’t even bother to show up because of the new ID law, state elections officials said that at least 590 provisional ballots were cast statewide because of the new ID law. University of Wisconsin officials will attempt to study the impact of the law.
Some voters in Laramie County faced up to hour-long waits at a handful of the county’s vote centers, while other faced much shorter wait times. And those long lines translated into record turnout both in the county and also statewide. And one county, Johnson, saw 100 percent turnout.
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