Long Lines, Machine Snags – But Major Voting Problems Scant in US Elections

Dixville Notch's first voter Clay Smith drops his ballot into the box as moderator Tom Tillotson watches Tuesday in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. Photo: Jim Cole / Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Voters around the country faced long lines, occasional broken machines and some hot tempers Tuesday, but as the polls began closing from east to west, there were no signs of the large-scale fraud, intimidation or hacking some had feared in the run-up to the presidential election.

The scattered reports of problems mostly involved the sort that arise in every election, including discrepancies in the voter rolls, with no immediate indication of a snag big enough to meaningfully alter the overall vote count.

“The biggest surprise is how uneventful things have been with this large a turnout,” said Illinois State Board of Electionsspokesman Jim Tenuto. “Everyone was expecting more problems than this — and nothing.”

In Texas, a computer malfunctioned at a polling place in suburban Houston, and voters were briefly sent to another site more than two miles away. In key battleground North Carolina, a computer problem in the Democratic stronghold of Durham County triggered long lines when election officials had to rely on a paper check-in process. Several precincts there extended their closing times up to an hour.


Colorado’s voter registration system was down for nearly 30 minutes, though the state said there was no evidence it was hit by hackers. Outside a Florida polling place, a woman campaigning for Donald Trump pepper-sprayed a Hillary Clinton voter.

Some people in North Carolina and Virginia complained they were not on the rolls despite registering through the motor vehicle departments.

The absence of widespread trouble was notable given that the voting unfolded amid repeated but unsubstantiated claims from Republican Donald Trump that the election would somehow be rigged. His exhortations to followers to watch for fraud at the polls gave rise to fears of vigilantism and harassment. There was also anxiety that hackers might attack voting systems.

“Overall, the story that everyone was expecting — mass reports of voter intimidation — hasn’t happened,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s Law School. “I’ve definitely seen an uptick in it … but it’s not the overriding story of the election, which certainly ought to be a relief to many.”

Despite little evidence to support his claims, Trump again suggested that the election might not be on the up-and-up. His campaign announced that it was seeking an investigation in the battleground state of Nevada over reports that some early voting locations had allowed people to get in line after poll closing times.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump would not commit to accepting the outcome of the election.

“We’re going to see how things play out today and hopefully they will play out well and hopefully we won’t have to worry about it,” he said. Later in the interview, he said, “It’s largely a rigged system.”

Fears of voter intimidation and fraud led to a flurry of lawsuits in the run-up to Election Day, and new voter regulations in more than a dozen states also held the potential to sow confusion at polling places.

In Philadelphia, one of the places Trump had suggested were ripe for fraud, District Attorney Seth Williams said that as of the afternoon, there were no substantiated reports of voter fraud or intimidation, and “no walking apocalypse of zombies voting around town.”

Meanwhile, state election officials were guarding against any attempt to breach their computer systems.


Forty-eight states accepted “cyberhygiene” help from the Homeland Security Department to patch their networks and make them more difficult for hackers to penetrate, and the remaining two states had contracted such services, officials said.

Cybersecurity experts said it was highly unlikely the official vote counts would be affected by hackers.

Story: Christina A. Cassidy, Eric Tucker. Additional reporting Diana Heidgerd, Ron Todt, Desmond O. Butler and Stephen Braun.