High turnout re­ported at polls

Some vot­ers find long waits, faulty ma­chines

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Dono­van Slack, Bart Jansen, Deb­o­rah Barfield Berry and Caro­line Si­mon

WASH­ING­TON – Vot­ers flocked 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 figures. 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 office.

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-

nia-Berke­ley.

By 5 p.m., a na­tional hot­line for prob­lems at the polls had fiel­ded 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 reflec­tion of the great in­ter­est in this elec­tion cy­cle and also sadly a reflec­tion 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 officials and the FBI.

Among the hot spots:

Ge­or­gia

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 filed 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.

In­di­ana

Heavy voter turnout caused a com­puter-re­lated melt­down in John­son County, but officials 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.

Michi­gan

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.

Mis­sis­sippi

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.

Ohio

Vot­ers in Greater Cincin­nati en­coun­tered long lines and a few tech­ni­cal glitches as they cast bal­lots Tues­day morn­ing. Elec­tion officials said vot­ers and poll work­ers were con­fused by a change in the vot­ing ma­chine sys­tem that alerted vot­ers if they “un­der­voted.”

Texas

A state judge or­dered Har­ris County to ex­tend vot­ing hours at nine polling places that failed to open on time.

Ari­zona

Vot­ers out­side Phoenix showed up to find their polling place had been fore­closed upon the day be­fore.

Florida

Res­i­dents in parts of the Florida Pan­han­dle dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Michael had to head to “vot­ing su­per­centers” in churches, county elec­tion offices and, in Panama City, a shop­ping cen­ter.

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