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Officials tell of smooth elections around nation

by CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE AND JULIE CARR SMYTH THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | November 12, 2020 at 4:28 a.m.
FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2020, file photo, volunteers distribute coffee as voters wait in long lines to cast their ballots during early voting at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in in Indianapolis. The wait to vote at this location is expected to be over 5 hours. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY,

ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE

and JULIE CARR SMYTH

The Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The 2020 election unfolded smoothly across the country and without any widespread irregularities, according to state officials and election experts.

Election experts said the large increase in advance voting -- 107 million people voting early in person and by mail -- helped take pressure off Election Day operations. There were also no incidents of violence at the polls or voter intimidation.

"The 2020 general election was one of the smoothest and most well-run elections that we have ever seen, and that is remarkable considering all the challenges," said Ben Hovland, a Democrat appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the Election Assistance Commission, which works closely with officials on election administration.

After Democrat Joe Biden's reported victory, Trump has sought to discredit the integrity of the election and argued that the results will be overturned.

Republican lawmakers have said the president should be allowed to launch legal challenges.

In Wisconsin, a battleground state where Biden narrowly edged Trump, top election official Meagan Wolfe said there were no problems with the election reported to her office and no complaints filed alleging any irregularities.

[RELATED: Full coverage of elections in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/elections/]

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said the same was true in her state, which Biden also won.

"Let me be clear -- the November elections in Michigan ran as smoothly as ever," Nessel said, adding that there were no "instances of irregularities in the process of counting the votes, only evidence-free allegations, wild speculation, and conspiracy theories."

Ahead of Election Day, the pandemic upended longstanding voting plans and forced election officials to make systemic changes largely on the fly. They did so with limited federal money to cover increased costs for mail ballots, which take more staff and money to send, process and count.

After problems erupted during spring primaries, the nation worried whether election officials could pull off a problem-free presidential election during a pandemic while confronting the threat of foreign interference from sophisticated adversaries led by Russia.

"In the spring, there were just so many challenges we were facing, and we were just wondering how we were going to manage to do it," said Larry Norden, an elections expert with the Brennan Center for Justice. "It's an incredible story."

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors across the U.S. to probe "substantial allegations" of voting irregularities.

Among the many lawsuits filed since Election Day is one in Nevada by the Trump campaign alleging voter fraud. Trump tweeted that the state is "turning out to be a cesspool of Fake Votes."

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, said her office wouldn't quantify how many complaints it had received, adding, "Many voter fraud complaints lack any evidence and are more complaints about process or policy."

In Iowa, Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, ordered all counties in the state to double-check results after a data entry error was discovered in one precinct.

"These human errors are unfortunate and frustrating, but the system is working," he said.

On Monday, Georgia's two U.S. senators, both Trump supporters facing close runoff elections that could determine which party controls the Senate next year, called on the state's top election official, a fellow Republican, to resign over unspecified claims of election mismanagement.

The official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said he would not step down and assured the public there had been no widespread problems.

Some incidents did get attention: In some Ohio and Texas counties, electronic poll books used to check in voters were sidelined when polls opened because they were still downloading a database update.

That forced officials to turn to paper backups or extend voting hours on Election Day. Some Georgia counties also grappled with poll book issues and with ballot-processing difficulties in a new statewide voting system.

That said, the errors seemed to have occurred at lower rates than in most elections, University of Iowa computer scientist Doug Jones said.

"The practical consequence of Trump's call to vigilance to prevent fraud was increased scrutiny from both sides, and this increased scrutiny seems to have worked," Jones said. "Election officials have been more careful, and election procedures have been followed more scrupulously than usual."

The federal agency in charge of leading efforts to secure U.S. elections has said there were no significant problems aside from small, ordinary glitches.

"The system held up given the extraordinary circumstances that election officials faced," said Amber McReynolds, who leads the National Vote at Home Institute. "Election officials managed to do their jobs even though, in most cases, they had one hand tied behind their back."

Information for this article was contributed by Frank Bajak, Ken Ritter, Kate Brumback, Ben Fox and David Eggert of The Associated Press.

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, Precinct 36 poll worker Vivian Bibens wears personal protective equipment as she explains the purpose of the ballot scanner to a voter on Election Day in Jackson, Miss. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, Precinct 36 poll worker Vivian Bibens wears personal protective equipment as she explains the purpose of the ballot scanner to a voter on Election Day in Jackson, Miss. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
FILE - In this July 1, 2020, file photo, Marianne Carver, of Pennsauken, N.J., drops off her ballot for the New Jersey primary election at a vote-by-mail drop box in a parking lot at Camden County College in Cherry Hill, N.J. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
FILE - In this July 1, 2020, file photo, Marianne Carver, of Pennsauken, N.J., drops off her ballot for the New Jersey primary election at a vote-by-mail drop box in a parking lot at Camden County College in Cherry Hill, N.J. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, poll worker Alice Machinist, of Newton, Mass., right, wears a mask and shield out of concern for the coronavirus while assisting a voter, left, with a ballot during early in-person general election voting at the Newton Free Library, in Newton, Mass. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, poll worker Alice Machinist, of Newton, Mass., right, wears a mask and shield out of concern for the coronavirus while assisting a voter, left, with a ballot during early in-person general election voting at the Newton Free Library, in Newton, Mass. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, Johnea Barlow casts her ballot at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, on Election Day in Louisville, Ky. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, Johnea Barlow casts her ballot at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, on Election Day in Louisville, Ky. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2020, file photo, people under umbrellas line up for early voting in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2020, file photo, people under umbrellas line up for early voting in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The 2020 presidential election had all the makings of a looming disaster: fears of Russian meddling, violence at the polls, voter intimidation and poll workers fleeing their posts over the coronavirus. But the election was largely smooth, in large part because 107 million voters that cast their ballots early and took the pressure off Election Day operations. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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