Some dis­rup­tions, but vot­ing mostly peace­ful


Vot­ers and civil rights groups re­ported long lines, iso­lated cases of mal­func­tion­ing equip­ment and some ha­rass­ment at polling places in Tues­day’s US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, but fears of wide­spread vi­o­lence at the polls did not ma­te­ri­al­ize.

Na­tion­wide, civil rights groups logged un­usual lev­els of voter in­tim­i­da­tion com­plaints, re­ceiv­ing about 20,000 calls through a na­tional voter com­plaint hot­line as of Tues­day af­ter­noon. Demo­cratic Party of­fi­cials, how­ever, said they did not see sys­temic voter sup­pres­sion ef­forts.

Civil rights groups, who have en­listed 7,000 vol­un­teers, said 40 per­cent of the calls they had re­ceived through a tele­phone hot­line by early af­ter­noon were from African-Amer­i­can and Latino vot­ers.

Com­plaints over voter in­tim­i­da­tion were es­pe­cially preva­lent in Florida, Ge­or­gia, Ohio, and Ari­zona, with a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of those com­ing from mi­nor­ity vot­ers.

“We are hear­ing more com­plaints about voter in­tim­i­da­tion than we have in pres­i­den­tial cy­cles from prior years,” said Kris­ten Clarke, pres­i­dent of the Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights Un­der Law.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly said the elec­tion would be “rigged” and called on his sup­port­ers to watch for signs of fraud in ur­ban ar­eas, rais­ing fears they could clash with mi­nor­ity vot­ers. Nu­mer­ous stud­ies have found that voter fraud is ex­ceed­ingly rare in the United States.

Some vot­ers in Florida re­ported a heavy, un­ex­plained po­lice pres­ence at sev­eral polling sites around the state. A group of stu­dents in the state were told their votes would not count be­cause their col­lege dor­mi­tory was con­sid­ered a ho­tel.

In Ohio’s Franklin County, the hot­line re­ceived com­plaints that So­mali Amer­i­can vot­ers were told they would have to vote pro­vi­sion­ally be­cause their ad­dresses did not match their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards - and then were told that the polling site had run out of pro­vi­sional bal­lots.

Mal­func­tion­ing ma­chines dom­i­nated voter com­plaints out of Penn­syl­va­nia, Ari­zona, New York, North Carolina, and Vir­ginia.

Trump cited re­ports that polling ma­chines were switch­ing votes for Repub­li­can can­di­dates to votes for Democrats as cause for con­cern that the elec­tion out­come might not be valid, once again warn­ing of a rigged sys­tem.

Speak­ing to Fox News, Trump pro­vided no ev­i­dence to sup­port the al­le­ga­tions or say where polling ma­chines were break­ing down, though there were some prob­lems in Penn­syl­va­nia.

Vot­ers in at least four Penn­syl­va­nia coun­ties said touch-screen vot­ing ma­chines were mis­tak­enly switch­ing votes. State of­fi­cials, how­ever, said they did not be­lieve any bal­lots had been wrongly counted as a re­sult of the ma­chine mal­func­tions.

Ab­sent on Tues­day were re­ports of the kind of hos­tile po­lit­i­cal dis­plays, van­dal­ism and vi­o­lence that have cropped up reg­u­larly through­out the cam­paign. A polling sta­tion was locked down in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia af­ter one per­son was killed and three wounded by gun­fire, but po­lice saw no im­me­di­ate in­di­ca­tion the in­ci­dent was linked to Elec­tion Day.

A Ne­vada judge on Tues­day re­jected a re­quest from Trump for records from a Las Ve­gas polling place that his cam­paign said had im­prop­erly re­mained open last week to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple who were lined up to vote. The judge agreed with a county at­tor­ney who ar­gued that elec­tion of­fi­cials al­ready pre­serve records.

Tens of mil­lions of vot­ers have cast bal­lots to con­clude an unusu­ally bit­ter pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The fed­eral govern­ment re­duced its elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram in the wake of a 2013 US Supreme Court de­ci­sion that weak­ened fed­eral oversight of states with a his­tory of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. Re­vised vot­ing laws and lengthy court bat­tles in many states also have left vot­ers un­cer­tain about when and where they can cast their bal­lot and whether they will need to present photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Penn­syl­va­nia is one of a hand­ful of states that re­lies on elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines with­out a pa­per backup that would al­low of­fi­cials to dou­ble-check the out­come if it is chal­lenged.

The ma­chines can record votes in­cor­rectly if they are not cal­i­brated prop­erly, a prob­lem that is mag­ni­fied as the screens de­grade with age.

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