High turnout reported at polls
Some voters find long waits, faulty machines
WASHINGTON – Voters flocked to the polls Tuesday in what could be the highest turnout in decades for a midterm election to decide the control of Congress and governors of 36 states.
There were 435 members of Congress on the ballot, and Democrats were eager to wrest control of the House and Senate from Republicans.
About 40 million early votes were probably cast, said Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who tracks the figures. In the congressional elections in 2014, there were 27.5 million early votes.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said more than 884,000 Ohioans cast absentee ballots by mail this election, and almost 430,000 cast an absentee ballot early in person. The statewide mail-in total is 23 percent higher than the 2014 midterms, and the in-person total is nearly three times the 146,000 ballots cast in 2014.
Brevard County, Florida, set a modern-day record for a midterm election with 63.06 percent turnout by 5:10 p.m.
“Early turnout appears to be pretty strong,” said Bradford Queen, a spokesman for the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office.
Higher turnout exacerbated problems at states including Georgia, Arizona, Florida, New York, Michigan and Texas.
“Turnout is exceptionally high, so they might not have been prepared,” said Laura Stoker, a political science professor at the University of Califor-
By 5 p.m., a national hotline for problems at the polls had fielded more than 24,000 calls and 1,759 text messages.
Election Protection, a coalition of more than 100 civil and voting rights groups that runs the hotline 866-OURVOTE, expected thousands more calls before voting was done.
“It is a reflection of the great interest in this election cycle and also sadly a reflection of the problems and barriers that most voters have faced this election season,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
An array of federal agencies monitored the election, including the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, intelligence officials and the FBI.
Among the hot spots:
Common Cause, a member of the Election Protection coalition, said that as of 10:30 a.m., it had received reports of “voting machines going down in large numbers across the state.”
A group of Georgia voters filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta to stop Secretary of State Brian Kemp from presiding over the election because of concerns about his fairness. Kemp, a Republican, ran against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor.
In Gwinnett County, voters at several polling places reported problems with voting machines running out of battery power and not having power cords, according to 11Alive.com television news.
Heavy voter turnout caused a computer-related meltdown in Johnson County, but officials decided the problem wasn't enough to keep the polls open late.
Voting stalled in some places around 11 a.m. because the voting machines had trouble communicating with electronic poll books, according to Phil Barrow, chairman of the Johnson County Election Board. “Voting is just so heavy it's overloaded our service provider,” he said.
Voters around Detroit found malfunctioning machines and long lines at various polling places.
Rex Nagy, a retired voter in Redford Township, said his polling place at Pierce Middle School relied on just one broken voting machine that he was told had not been tested before Election Day.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was frustrated that police in Jackson placed roadblocks near some polling places. Police Chief James Davis said the “administrative roadblocks” were part of Operation Safe Streets.
Voters in Greater Cincinnati encountered long lines and a few technical glitches as they cast ballots Tuesday morning. Election officials said voters and poll workers were confused by a change in the voting machine system that alerted voters if they “undervoted.”
A state judge ordered Harris County to extend voting hours at nine polling places that failed to open on time.
Voters outside Phoenix showed up to find their polling place had been foreclosed upon the day before.
Residents in parts of the Florida Panhandle devastated by Hurricane Michael had to head to “voting supercenters” in churches, county election offices and, in Panama City, a shopping center.