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Voting Glitches Are Minimal but Could Still Matter

A voter is greeted by instructions written in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean at the entrance to a polling place in New York City's Chinatown.
A voter is greeted by instructions written in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean at the entrance to a polling place in New York City's Chinatown.

Voting problems were not as great Tuesday as some people had feared. But glitches could still turn out to matter in close races, such as Virginia and Montana. Elsewhere, some glitches affected tens of thousands of voters.

Some problems showed up almost as soon as poll workers across the country opened precincts, many of which had new equipment and new voting procedures.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, homeless advocate Brian Davis was monitoring a polling site that he said opened an hour late. And even then, all the voting equipment didn't work correctly.


"The first guy who voted actually was a Cleveland police officer," Davis says. "And I'm concerned, and he was concerned, that his vote didn't count because nothing was printed out."

Eventually, Davis says, the machine had to be shut down.

Cuyahoga County reported problems in more than 40 precincts, and later, a judge ordered some to stay open an extra 90 minutes to make up for the delays. There also were late openings and machine problems in Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

In Delaware County, Ind., which includes Muncie, a programming error delayed balloting for more than 2 1/2 hours. Circuit Court Judge Wayne Lennington was furious with the company that provided the equipment.

"This could all have been avoided if they would've checked them," Lennington says. "But they got their money and they were gone."


In Denver, computer crashes and power outages led to long lines throughout the day.

In other areas, voters reported confusion over new identification rules. Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan says she was asked three times by a poll worker to show a photo ID, even though she explained to the worker that the court had struck down a requirement.

Other voters say they showed up at the polls only to be told they weren't listed on the rolls. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton said one of those voters was her daughter, Chelsea, who was eventually allowed to cast a ballot.

In Virginia, there were disturbing reports of numerous calls to voters directing them to the wrong polling sites. The state has asked the FBI to investigate.

Despite such problems, the election went smoothly in most places, says Doug Chapin of the nonpartisan, which monitors voting issues. He characterized the glitches as "fender benders," but did note that they might have serious repercussions.

"Some of these little fender benders will loom larger if, for some reason, they're involved in a very close election," Chapin says. "A two-hour polling delay is inconvenient and something worth watching, but it's especially important if that figures in one or more close races the rest of election week."

Indeed, lawyers were out in force Tuesday, watching closely and taking notes, just in case.

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