Ugly end to a messy election
A shooting at polling station, allegations of voter harassment on top of usual voting chaos
Long lines, malfunctioning machines, a Trump campaign lawsuit, allegations of voter harassment and a shooting that locked down two California polling stations — for American voters on Tuesday, an ugly and messy election season came to an ugly and messy end.
Fears of widespread election-day violence failed to materialize on Tuesday, though Californians endured a few tense hours after gunfire erupted near a polling station in Azusa, a city 40 kilometres east of Los Angeles.
The shooting forced the lockdown of two polling stations but police said late Tuesday that it was unrelated to the election and they still had no motive. The gunman and a male victim in his 70s were killed, with two other people injured; at least one of the victims was also on their way to vote, it was reported.
But outside of Azusa, U.S. voters encountered more typical polling station dramas: long lineups, malfunctioning machines, assorted annoyances and isolated pockets of voter harassment.
The day did begin, however, with a Donald Trump trademark: a lawsuit. Early Tuesday, the Republican candidate’s campaign filed a lawsuit in Nevada — one of several states that allows early voting — alleging that voters were allowed to cast their ballots past deadline last week.
In Nevada, people standing in line when the polls close at 8 p.m. are allowed to cast their ballots. The Trump campaign is alleging, however, that election officials violated state law by allowing people to join the line even after the cut off time.
The lawsuit, which was quickly rejected by a Nevada judge, was widely perceived as an attempt to suppress Hispanic voters in a key swing state. The polling station was located outside of a Mexican supermarket in Las Vegas, a Clinton stronghold.
While election day was largely peaceful, civil rights groups logged a high number of complaints from voters reporting harassment or suppression.
As of early Tuesday evening, some 30,000 calls had already been received by a national voter complaint hotline; according to civil rights groups, a large proportion of them were from African-American and Latino voters.
According to Election Protection, an organization operating a hotline, voters complained about being directed to the wrong polling places, learning that their names had been purged from voter rolls, being wrongly told to fill out provisional ballots, and being improperly asked for identification or forced to wait in long lines.
Voters in Florida’s also reported people “using megaphones aggressively” and in Jacksonville, an “unauthorized individual” was also found inside a polling station, according to Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, during a press conference.
There were also reports in Hollywood, Fla. of “aggressive individuals hovering around” voters as the approached polling sites. “Some have turned away because they did not feel able to freely cast (a) ballot.”
A few skirmishes were also reported Tuesday. In Michigan, authorities had to break up a shoving match between a Hillary Clinton supporter and another voter supporting Trump.
In Florida, an altercation between a male Clinton supporter and a female Trump supporter outside of a Palm Beach polling station also led to the man being pepper sprayed and the woman allegedly punched.
Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, two clerks in Broward County were also fired for not adhering to “procedure and policy,” with officials declining to release any other details.
Across the country, there were scattered reports of machines that didn’t work properly, including in Durham, N.C., where a computerized system for verifying voter registration failed in several precincts.
One voting precinct closed for an hour and a half and was forced to turn voters away, according to the New York Times.
At North Carolina Central University, “it was a two-and-one-half-hour wait at 3 p.m.,” Gunther Peck, a Duke University associate professor of history, told the Times.
“Only 240 people had voted as of 4 p.m., and it should have been 500,” he said. “Dozens of students had to leave. It was good for Donald Trump, no doubt about that.”
Throughout the day, there were also sporadic reports of misinformed poll workers giving out erroneous information about voter identification. Long lines were also reported at various polling stations across the country, prompting some voters to give up on casting their ballots.
Supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wear their worry as most of the midwest states go for Trump on election night in New York City.