I. In Focus This Week
Signs of the super things to come?
Voters headed to the polls in record numbers this week for Super Tuesday
Although absentee ballots are still arriving from overseas and provisional ballots are still being verified, for voters, depending on where they lived and which party they voted for, Super Tuesday, was indeed super in some places, in others, it was just meh.
And for elections officials, who no doubt think every election is super, Tuesday’s contests in the nine states holding primaries (Alaska-GOP, America Samoa-Dems, Colorado and Minnesota all held caucuses), were a mixed bag as well with some jurisdictions registering few if any problems and others being forced to apologize for long lines and delayed results.
In the newsletter last week, we mentioned 10 things that we would be keeping any eye on this week and while there were issues with almost all 10, there were no systematic problems. Here’s a rundown of how Super Tuesday played out in the nine states, but before we get to that, we think Payne County, Oklahoma Assistant Secretary of Elections Dondee Klein best summed up how elections officials felt on Tuesday when she spoke to the Stillwater News Press late on Tuesday evening.
“Thursday’s for being tired,” Klein told the paper and then from somewhere in the room someone added, “And margaritas on Friday!”
This biggest news out of Alabama, was there was no news. The state rolled out its voter photo ID for the first time during a presidential election and at press time, we found no reports of voters experiencing any issues with lack of or type of idea.
The day was not without issues though. Throughout much of the day, the state’s voter website, AlabamaVotes.gov experienced slow-down problems as it struggled to keep up with the traffic of a record-setting primary.
In Gadsden, a man was arrested outside of a polling place for yelling at voters and using abusive language.
Mother Nature couldn’t put a damper on things in Lauderdale County when storms caused power outages for about an hour a one polling place. Approximately 200 voters were able to successfully cast their ballots when the power was out.
In Montgomery County, there were reports of voting machine malfunctions at two precincts during the early morning voting hours, but voters were able to continue voting using other machines.
On election night, Madison County experienced technical difficulties that kept the full results from being available until close to 11:30 p.m. According to the county Elections Administrator Frank Barger, there was an issue with conveying election results onto the digital platforms used by the website.
Several counties launched vote centers for the first time this week and four counties pilot tested new voting systems and according to published reports, there were few, if any problems with either.
In Pulaski County, some of the batteries used for voting machines had to be replaced sooner than expected and some polling places ran out of ballots late in the day. Voters were instructed to use the electronic voting machines.
There were reports of voter ID issues in at least four counties in Arkansas. According to KHBS, a voter in Sebastian County was turned away for not having an ID, but Election Commissioner Meghan Hassler told the television station that it was a mistake on the part of the poll worker. Hassler told the station that the turned away voter did come back to cast their ballot.
Results were delayed in Crawford County due to a glitch in the machinery that kept volunteers counting ballots until 3 a.m. And in Jefferson County, officials blamed the results delay on new poll workers and long ballots.
Record-breaking early voting numbers in the Peach State did not diminish the number of voters that showed up on Super Tuesday. In Lee County, poll workers were shocked by the voter turnout saying that they had never seen that many voters at a primary before.
Voters in one Atlanta-area polling place expressed concerns when they were given paper ballots to use instead of being able to use one of the electronic voting machines. According to the precinct manager, the machines were programmed for the wrong precinct. So voters had a choice. They could either stay and vote on paper or they could come back later.
Officials in Gwinnett County are investigating reports that Latino voters may have been mistreated at one of the county’s polling places.
Although they were done before the 11 p.m. news, results were delayed in Macon-Bibb and local elections officials chalked that up to heavy turnout and new precinct managers.
The probable record turnout in Massachusetts was punctuated with back rubs and bake sales, but probably the biggest news coming out of the Commonwealth on Tuesday was whether or not former President Clinton violated state electioneering laws — he did not, barely.
Aside from that, things went relatively smoothly despite large crowds of voters at some polling locations. New voting machines in Wareham did well, although some voters in Carver were confused about the process and who they could/couldn’t vote for in the primary.
In Salem where Hispanic voters had recently complained about hostility at the polls, things seemed to be professional and congenial on Tuesday.
According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, turnout in the Sooner State was 39.5 percent which is a record for a presidential preference primary. And those big numbers of course created lines at some polling places.
The day did not start off well in Tulsa when voting machines did not function properly and some voters were incorrectly turned away from the polls. Assistant Elections Secretary Martha Bales said that poll workers had received the proper training and instructions on what to do in the event of a machine malfunction, but that one poll worker did not follow procedures. "Sometimes when they get out to the precincts, they just seem to forget some of the information," she told Tulsa World. There were also issues in other Tulsa precincts that had been consolidated or moved from one location to another.
Some voters in Edmond reported waiting in line up to 45 minutes to cast their ballot, this was of course if they were able to find a place to park. According to Fox25, there were no complaints though, just voters happy to have their voices heard.
In Sterling, even though the entire town was without power, including the polling locations, voters still went to the polls in large numbers and were greeted by poll workers who used sunlight and flashlights as their guide.
Heavy turnout was the rule of the day in Tennessee following a record number of people turning out for early voting. And like other states many of the problems reported in Tennessee on Super Tuesday stemmed from turnout.
In Hendersonville, the polls remained open for hours after closing time in order to accommodate those in line. In Franklin, lines were out the door at times as voters patiently waited, sometimes in the rain, to cast their ballots.
In El Paso County, where long lines forced some voters to turn away before casting a ballot, County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise blamed some of the problems on lack of poll workers who called in sick. "I hate to hear that voters left because lines were too long and we're really going to work with our judges on how to handle long lines," Wise told a local television station.
Officials in Bexar County, Harris County and Denton County all experienced issues due to overwhelming turnout on Tuesday. In Denton County the polls were forced to stay open late in order to allow everyone in line to vote. In Dallas, one GOP polling place ran out of ballots due to demand whereas other Dallas-area polling places saw light turnout.
Although county officials run the party primaries in Texas, it’s up to the parties to choose polling locations and that caused some issues for voters in Nueces County.
Vote centers in Lubbock County performed well on Tuesday.
Due to a late opening, one polling place in Hidalgo County was ordered to stay open.
Williamson County officials struggled to dispel rumors about vote flipping. The county did not receive any complaints from voters or poll workers, but people reporting that their vote was flipped called into a local radio station to report the issues.
And because there is always one person who wants to cause a scene simply because they can, one voter create some issues in a Houston-area polling place when he came in with what turned out be an empty gun holster. The voter, who was also a Republican election judge, said he wore the empty holster in protest since he cannot bring his gun into a polling place.
Although turnout was high, it wasn’t record-breaking in the home state of candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and Secretary of State Jim Condos reported that there were few, if any problems with casting ballots.
It was a double whammy for the Commonwealth this primary season as some counties launched new voting equipment for the first time in a presidential election and voter ID was required statewide for the first time in a presidential primary. Despite what could have been a recipe for disaster, things went relatively well on Tuesday in the Old Dominion State. Although there were isolated issues throughout the state, there was nothing systematic.
In Richmond there were concerns about ballots being placed in a duffle bag instead of a ballot counting machine. Turns out the machine was inaccessible and until the machine could be accessed, the ballots were held in a secure duffle bag.
Arlington County ran out of GOP ballots and had to make new ballots on a photocopier. No voter was denied a ballot while the copies were being made.
Augusta County continued to struggle with ADA-complaint polling places a year after the U.S. Department of Justice notified the county about deficiencies.
Although campus polling locations can be fraught with controversy, the new polling site at James Madison University saw more than 1,000 voters on Tuesday and had the third-highest turnout in all of Harrisonburg.
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