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Voting smooth on Election Day, say poll officials

Typical waits, some glitches, nothing worse at most sites by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports | November 9, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A voter moves to cast their vote after filling out their ballot at a polling site inside The Shed arts center, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The final day of voting in the 2022 midterms unfolded Tuesday without major disruptions or widespread problems, a relatively trouble-free end to the first nationwide election since a campaign of claims began attacking public confidence in the way ballots are cast and counted.

Scattered problems arose during the day that frustrated voters but did not appear to affect the ability to accurately tally the votes. But many far-right media figures and some Republican politicians seized upon even the limited issues and typical problems that occurred to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the vote.

Every election includes sporadic reports of clerical errors, equipment malfunctions and polling places that don't open on time.

Instead of reports of intimidation, there were mostly benign reports of partisans campaigning aggressively just outside polling places in some areas.

In Fulton County, Georgia, election officials said two poll workers -- a woman and her son -- had been removed from their posts at a polling place in suburban Johns Creek after officials were alerted to comments the woman made online that suggested she had taken part in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, some machine tabulators were unable to scan ballots immediately. Vote tabulators malfunctioned in slightly more than 25% of the county's polling places, prompting anger from some Republicans.

"I'm embarrassed for Arizona," Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake said Tuesday after casting her ballot.

Election officials said the issue was connected to ballot printers at these locations. While voting was not affected, officials said ballots that were unable to be scanned Tuesday at polling places will be taken to a central office to be counted today.

As the polls were about to close Tuesday night in Arizona, a Superior Court judge in Maricopa County denied a Republican National Committee lawsuit that sought to keep polls open for three additional hours.

Republicans argued that the tabulation issues disenfranchised voters. County officials argued that an extension would present logistical hurdles and be difficult to communicate to poll workers.

About 6 in 10 Arizona voters reside in Maricopa County, which has tilted increasingly toward Democrats since 2016.

Tabulators optically scan and count votes on paper ballots and are widely accepted as significantly more accurate and far less labor intensive than the hand-counting of ballots.

The machines are used in 90% of U.S. voting jurisdictions, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. But the tabulators have also been the target of groups that have denied the results of the 2020 election and have claimed that tabulators and other voting equipment can be hacked to rig results in favor of Democrats.

Reports of the problems set off a quick firestorm.

The Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of online information researchers, found more than 40,000 messages on Twitter about the issue before noon Tuesday, with a large spike in traffic after a video was shared by Charlie Kirk, a conservative radio host who later said people "need to be arrested for what is happening in Maricopa County."

In the Houston area, equipment problems, lack of supplies and too few poll workers were reported at several voting sites but were resolved quickly, said Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum. By afternoon, many sites around the county were reporting wait times of 14 minutes or less.

Voters at a large polling place in a predominantly Hispanic area of Houston were unable to cast ballots for roughly four hours Tuesday, raising concerns that many who had arrived before work to vote would not return.

The problems at the site began before the polls opened.

An election clerk quit and the voting machines were not set up, county election officials said. The county was considering extending hours at the polling site and at a handful of others that opened late, said Leah Shah, a spokesperson for the Harris County Elections Administrator's Office.

Before the problems were resolved, voters were sent to surrounding polling places as lines grew. Across Houston, voters experienced long waits Tuesday morning, in some cases more than 90 minutes.

On Tuesday, members of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division were monitoring 64 sites in 24 states. Monitors asked to enter polling sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who oversees state elections.

Under Florida law, only official poll watchers, inspectors, election clerks, the elections supervisor, voters or people helping them vote and law enforcement or emergency personnel with permission by the clerk are allowed to be inside a polling site.

"They sent a letter to the counties asking for permission to be in the polling places. We told him that under state law, that is not permitted," Byrd said.

Officials in Missouri also are refusing to allow federal authorities to enter polling sites.

In a letter to federal officials, the general counsel for the Department of State wrote that state officials asked for specific reasons for allowing them to enter polling sites, but they did not receive a response.

Brad McVay wrote that the state would send its own monitors to the three counties.

"These monitors will ensure that there is no interference with the voting process," he wrote.

Federal cybersecurity officials were monitoring reported attempts to crash state and local websites by flooding them with online traffic. The website of the Mississippi secretary of state was down for part of Tuesday.

"We continue to see no activity that should cause anyone to question the security, the integrity or the resilience of the election," said an official with the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, speaking on condition of anonymity under agency rules.

Election officials note the many checks in place to ensure that machines accurately count ballots and that fraud attempts and cyberattacks are identified and stopped.

Most voters also cast hand-marked paper ballots or use machines that produce a paper record of their votes. These are used after the election to check that ballot-counting machines worked properly.

At a special meeting, the Philadelphia City Commissioners voted 2-1 to reinstate a process designed to eliminate the duplication of in-person votes and those already cast as mail-in or absentee ballots.

The commissioners' decision will delay the final tally of votes in Philadelphia and in the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic candidate John Fetterman and Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Information for this article was contributed by Christina A. Cassidy, Geoff Mulvihill and staff members of The Associated Press, by Stuart A. Thompson, Jack Healy, Neil Vigdor, J. David Goodman and Alan Feuer of The New York Times and by Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times (TNS).

  photo  FILE - People fill out ballots during early voting at Westside Skill Center, Oct. 31, 2022, in Baltimore, Md. Midterm elections are being held on Tuesday, Nov. 8. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
  photo  FILE - A woman attends an event for Democratic candidate for Florida governor Charlie Crist at an early voting location, Nov. 6, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
  photo  Moderator Andrew Williamson goes through final preparations to set up the Aspray Boat House as a polling site before the doors open to voters for the midterm election in Warwick, R.I., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  photo  A sign reminds residents to do their civic duty on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  photo  A voter drops off their ballot outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
  photo  Voters line up to cast their ballots in the midterm election at the Aspray Boat House in Warwick, R.I., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  photo  Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to the media after voting on election day with son Leo, second from right, and daughter Ruby, right, in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
  photo  Supporters wait for Democratic incumbent J.B. Pritzker to arrive at an election night event, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
  photo  Matt Koenen played pinball at West County Lanes in Ellisville, Mo., as voters used the bowling alley's party room next door to cast their ballots, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

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