Major voting problems scant despite ominous warnings

Christina A. Cassidy
Associated Press
Voters wait in line outside the Church of the Maryvale Church of the Nazarene on Nov. 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP)

Washington — Election Day came and went with no obvious signs of the catastrophic problems some had feared, including large-scale fraud, intimidation or hacking.

Voters across the country instead encountered the types of glitches that arise in every election — long lines, occasional broken machines, discrepancies in voting rolls and some hot tempers.

The scattered problems included malfunctioning voting systems at polling stations in Texas, computer trouble in North Carolina that forced officials to rely on a paper check-in process and triggered long lines, and arguments and skirmishes between supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, including one reported to have involved pepper spray.

There were reports in some states of voters waiting in line for hours to cast a ballot.

Among them was Heather Merrick, who waited for hours to vote at a firehouse in Jersey City, New Jersey. She lamented that she didn’t bring snacks.

“I think that the energy and general vibe was really upbeat,” said Merrick, 33, who was voting in New Jersey for the first time after moving from New York. “I started to sense a little frustration once we got close enough to see the machines stuck in the line and it was moving so slowly.”

Yet there were no immediate indications of any snags large enough to alter the vote count in any meaningful way.

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

The voting unfolded amid repeated but unsubstantiated claims from 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.

He continued to raise the specter of election fraud on Tuesday, telling Fox News, “It’s largely a rigged system.” He would not say whether he would accept 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.

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.”

State officials, meanwhile, had been working for weeks against any attempt by hackers to breach their computer systems. It was a particular concern given the U.S. intelligence community’s assertion last month that the Russians had attempted through hacking to interfere with the electoral process.

But there were no major reported problems. The federal government offered help to states looking to patch their networks to prevent intrusions.

Cybersecurity experts said because of the nation’s decentralized voting system, with people casting ballots in 9,000 jurisdictions and more than 185,000 precincts, it would be difficult for a hacker to have any sizable effect on the vote.