New Yorkers Abandon Lines as Scanners Fail: Election Integrity Updates
U.S. voters will decide whether Republicans keep control of Congress in national elections Tuesday — amid concern that social-media misinformation, controversial ballot-access restrictions in several states and even the threat of possible election-system hacking might sway the results.
Here’s the latest news on election integrity from Washington, Silicon Valley and America’s more than 170,000 polling places, updated throughout the day:
New Yorkers Abandon Lines as Scanners Fail (2:52 p.m. ET)
In New York City, scanning machines broke down all over the city, thwarting thousands of would-be voters and forcing hundreds to abandon polling places rather than endure waits that sometimes exceeded an hour.
At Public School 207 in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx, all five scanners were inoperative, forcing scores of voters to resort to paper ballots. That wasn’t unique. At 109th Street and Broadway, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, all the scanners were down and hundreds of voters lined up around the block in the rain, according to voter Joan Levine.
All machines were also down at St. Cecelia’s Church in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, said Daniel Kolb, a lawyer at Davis Polk who volunteered at Election Protection, a monitoring group set up by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, operating a national call-in center at 866-OUR-VOTE.
“We’re seeing problems across the city, an extraordinary number of scanners not working in district after district,’’ Kolb said. “This is very different from prior elections and someone has to explain to us why this is happening. It’s a two-page ballot instead of one, and some people are not putting in the pages separately, fouling the machines. The problem began in mid-morning and has been building ever since.’’
City Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez did not respond to requests for information.
The snafus come after the Republican-controlled state Senate blocked a legislative move earlier this year to permit early voting in New York state.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for the executive director of the city’s election bureau, Michael Ryan, to resign over the widespread problems.
“Every election is like Groundhog Day: long lines, polling site issues, huge problem,” Johnson said in a tweet on Tuesday, in which he also mocked Ryan for blaming the situation on the poor weather conditions. “We should begin a top to bottom review of how this happened.”
A message left with Ryan’s press office wasn’t immediately returned. — Henry Goldman, Erik Larson
Technical Glitches and Long Lines (1:06 p.m. ET)
Long lines in Georgia, Michigan, New York, Missouri and Texas were inconveniencing voters on Tuesday — along with late openings for polling places in Arizona, Maryland and Pennsylvania and technical glitches in scattered precincts around the country.
But while the Department of Homeland Security was tracking those reports — as well as weather-related issues on the East Coast — the agency had no indication that any of the problems were related to any kind of cyber-attack, an agency official said Tuesday afternoon.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office said its Election Day hotline has received about 225 calls and emails, with the top complaint citing broken scanners.
More than 40 complaints were about polling places with at least one broken scanner, according to a tweet by Underwood’s communications director, Amy Spitalnick. The office is “looking into systemic problems,” she said.
In Georgia, five of Gwinnett County’s 156 precincts had technical problems this morning that kept machines from working initially, according to Joe Sorenson, the county’s communications director. For a period of time, paper ballots were being issued at four locations as backups because the voting machines were not working. At the fifth location, the poll workers failed to give voters paper ballots, so the county will keep the location open later, until 7:25 p.m. tonight, he said.
In Texas, a Harris County election official blamed a lack of preparation by some polling staffers for issues in the Houston area, and said there are no major issues there now.
Most of the problems nationwide have been with old voting machines that broke down or poorly trained poll workers, according to Common Cause, a non-partisan group, which had a record number of poll-watching volunteers at 6,500 in 30 states. — Alyza Sebenius, Erik Larson and Steve Matthews
Twitter Deletes Fake Flag-Burning Video (11:59 a.m. ET)
A fake video made the rounds on Twitter and Facebook on Monday and into Tuesday morning purporting to show a CNN report about Democrats burning American flags.
The fake post had around 55,000 shares before being deleted by Twitter, according to the Daily Beast. The video follows a similar pattern seen in the last several days of misinformation bouncing around the web, racking up more shares than even the most successful mainstream news stories, and then getting deleted after journalists point them out to social network administrators. — Gerrit De Vynck
Some Arizona Voters Locked Out (11:49 a.m. ET)
Voters couldn’t get into a Chandler, Arizona, polling place Tuesday after the building was “foreclosed” overnight, a spokeswoman for Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said.
In a series of Twitter posts early Tuesday, Fontes said “access issues” forced the temporary closure. He later said the problem had been cleared up and the site made operational.
“We have just heard from the building owners, and we will now be able to use the building,” spokeswoman Sophia Solis said in an email late Tuesday morning. “We tried to update and accommodate the voters who visited the site.”
Maricopa County, home to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was pardoned by President Donald Trump after being convicted of criminal contempt, experienced issues early at a few other sites in Mesa and Phoenix, azcentral.com reported. Issues — since resolved — included at least one other polling place where voters were locked out and “a major technical issue,” the news site reported. — Terrence Dopp
Delays Reported in Atlanta Suburbs (11:30 a.m. ET)
Voting in Georgia’s close race for governor got off to a slow start because of technical delays in four suburban precincts, the New York Times reported.
Joe Sorenson, a Gwinnett County spokesman, said the precincts reported issues with the system that creates voter access cards for Georgia’s electronic polling system, the newspaper reported. The problem lingered at three places into mid-morning; people at those locations were being allowed to cast paper ballots.
Republican Brian Kemp, who is Georgia’s secretary of state, faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in a governor’s race that’s been marked by contentious debate over voter-access questions.
Facebook Told Feds of Foreign Accounts Probe (10:30 a.m. ET)
Facebook Inc. alerted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last night of foreign-linked Instagram and Facebook accounts that were being taken down from the social-media website, according to a DHS official.
“Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate,” Facebook said in a blog post Monday. “Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly.” But Tuesday’s impending election spurred the company “to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.”
As of approximately 9 a.m. in Washington, 20 states were logged into the National Situation Awareness Room, a DHS-run digital information sharing platform. As polls opened across the country, the department expects more states to join.
In the first few hours of voting, there was nothing significant to report in the way of election hacking or security breaches, according to a DHS official.– Alyza Sebenius and Sarah Frier.
Voters Warned of Bad Poll Information (9:55 a.m. ET)
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea warned voters to check the state’s website for correct polling places after she said there had been reports that outside groups were sharing false information.
“We have had some reports of voters receiving incorrect polling place information from 3rd party applications,” Gorbea said in a posting on Twitter. “Please remember to use http://vote.ri.gov for the most up to date information.”
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way issued a similar warning Tuesday. “Beware false information regarding your polling locations. To find your polling place, check your sample ballots or go to https://voter.njsvrs.com/elections/polling-lookup.html … to find where to #vote today. Polls are open until 8 p.m. in #NewJersey,” she said on Twitter. –Terrence Dopp
Tech Firms, Feds and States on Alert (4 a.m. ET)
As millions of Americans go to the polls today, internet and social-media companies will be on the lookout for trolls, bots and misinformation designed to sway the results. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will step up its monitoring of state compliance with election laws by dispatching personnel to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states. And much of the nation’s attention will be focused on a number of states where ballot-access issues have stirred controversy.
“We’re all on high alert,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, told Bloomberg Government.
No state has seen more contentiousness than Georgia, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp is the Republican candidate for governor. On Sunday, he said there had been “a failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system,” and that an investigation had been opened into Georgia’s Democratic Party. No data was breached and federal authorities have been alerted, according to a statement from Kemp’s office.
Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams responded that Kemp’s claim of election hacking amounted to a “witch hunt” and an abuse of power. Kemp has come in for previous criticism over his handling of the state elections system. On Friday, he lost in court when a federal judge in Atlanta ruled that more than 3,100 voters whom the state had flagged as ineligible non-citizens could participate in the election as long as they show identification and proof of citizenship.
Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union last week also criticized a new voter-identification law in North Dakota and what they called an out-of-date voter database in Arizona — both of which they said offer Republicans the most “bang for their buck” in terms of limiting ballot access for Democratic-leaning voters.
Since the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, some states tightened ballot rules — from stricter voter identification and purges of voter rolls to fewer polling places and shorter hours. Supporters say the measures help ensure only qualified voters participate, while critics say the changes suppress the rights of poor and minority citizens.
The Justice Department said Monday its Civil Rights Division is stepped up monitoring compliance of federal voting rights laws by dispatching personnel to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states, including some that had been required to clear their election laws with the federal government prior to that rule being tossed out by the 2013 Supreme Court ruling.
The states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Meanwhile, a warning about “illegal voting” that appeared Monday on the Donald Trump for President Facebook page became one of the top posts of the day on Facebook.
“President Trump warns anyone who commits illegal voting shall receive maximum criminal penalties,” said the post. It asks: “Do you agree?”
Actual voter fraud is “vanishingly rare,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, which cited academic studies and investigations by news organizations. For example, the Washington Post in December 2016 found four documented cases of fraud among more than 135 million votes cast in the November 2016 election.
Facebook last month unveiled new rules against voter suppression on its site. For example, the company said it would be taking down any posts that provide incorrect information about methods or times for voting.
Meanwhile, Americans appear to be growing more concerned about the potential for election hacking. Fewer than half of Americans surveyed said they’re somewhat or very confident the elections are secure from hacking, according to an Oct. 29 Pew Research Center report. No matter what disruptions might happen Tuesday, Americans should vote, federal and state officials have said. The loss of voter confidence is the greatest threat to the elections, they have said.
The runup to the election has been relatively calm from a cybersecurity perspective, federal officials say. “At this time we have no indication of compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes,” said a joint statement on Monday from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray. — Sarah Frier, Selina Wang and Gerrit De Vynck.
On Oct. 24, another Atlanta federal court judge ordered Georgia election officials to create a process for contesting the rejection of absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications due to signatures that apparently didn’t match. The Spirit Lake Tribe sued North Dakota on Oct. 30, saying the state’s law requiring voters to present identification proving their current residential address imposes “a severe impediment” to their right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court gave states more power to purge their voting databases of people who haven’t cast ballots recently, upholding an Ohio system that could become a model for other Republican-controlled states. The justices, voting 5-4 along ideological lines, said the system was a legitimate effort to identify people who have moved away and didn’t illegally penalize people for not voting.