Elec­tions ex­posed flaws in sys­tem

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - News - BY MIKE MCINTIRE, MICHAEL WINES AND ALAN BLINDER

County of­fi­cials in Mary­land mis­cal­cu­lated how many bal­lots they would need on Elec­tion Day – and quickly ran out in more than a dozen precincts.

In New York City, vot­ers were given a two-sheet bal­lot that jammed ma­chines and caused de­lays and long lines. And in Ge­or­gia, some vot­ers failed to pro­vide de­tails like a birth year, lead­ing of­fi­cials to re­ject hun­dreds of ab­sen­tee bal­lots for “in­suf­fi­cient oath in­for­ma­tion” be­fore fed­eral judges in­ter­vened.

Nearly two decades af­ter vot­ing prob­lems in a hand­ful of Florida coun­ties par­a­lyzed the na­tion, the United States’ elec­tion grid this month re­mained a crazy patch­work of in­con­ve­niences, con­fu­sion and er­rors, both hu­man­made and me­chan­i­cal.

The lum­ber­ing sys­tem, com­bined with claims of voter sup­pres­sion and skewed maps from re­dis­trict­ing, once again tested con­fi­dence in the in­tegrity of the vote.

As in 2000, no ev­i­dence emerged of wide­spread fraud or po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence. But just find­ing enough qual­i­fied poll work­ers to make Elec­tion Day hap­pen was once again a chal­lenge, as vot­ers nav­i­gated more than 100,000 polling places, staffed by 900,000 most- ly vol­un­teer work­ers and ad­min­is­tered by some 10,000 lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions. (Af­ter the 2016 elec­tion, nearly two-thirds of lo­cal elec­tions of­fi­cials na­tion- wide re­ported dif­fi­cul­ties in re­cruit­ing work­ers.)

The un­even­ness of the sys­tem across the coun­try – in 22 states, elec­tions at the lo­cal level were over­seen by just one per­son – made it a po­lit­i­cal process open to ac­cu­sa­tions of ma­nip­u­la­tion.

In some states, in­clud­ing New Jer­sey, South Carolina and Louisiana, of­fi­cials de­pended on elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines that have no pa­per back­ups in case of a con­tested out­come. In Ge­or­gia, 16-year-old ma­chines led to the im­prob­a­ble scene of Brian Kemp – the sec­re­tary of state over­see­ing elec­tions and the Repub­li­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor – be­ing briefly thwarted from cast­ing a bal­lot for him­self. The com­puter sys­tem, run­ning on Win­dows 2000, re­turned an er­ror.

Broader wor­ries about the han­dling of pro­vi­sional bal­lots in Ge­or­gia and the se­cu­rity of a com­puter sys­tem led a fed­eral judge to de­lay cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the state’s re­sults. On Fri­day, Demo­crat Stacey Abrams ended her bid for gov­er­nor in the race against Kemp, while de­nounc­ing what she called “sys­temic dis­en­fran­chise­ment, dis­in­vest­ment and in­com­pe­tence.”

Le­gal ac­tions were ini­ti­ated in Florida, where close mar­gins forced re­counts in the races for Se­nate and gov­er­nor, and ques­tions arose about whether el­i­gi­ble mail-in bal­lots were im­prop­erly re­jected. Elec­tion of­fi­cials were to con­clude man­ual re­counts by Sun­day.

RUTH FREMSON NYT

Votes are re­counted the day af­ter the elec­tion in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Nov. 7. Amer­ica’s elec­tion grid re­mains trou­bled with con­fu­sion and er­rors.

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