II. Primary Update
Voters in five states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania — went to the polls this week in what we’re calling the Northeast Regional. And although there were some issues, by-and-large things went very well, even though there were some things — limited polling places, new voting technology, high turnout, last-minute ballot changes, same-day registration — that could have potentially created issues. Maryland and Pennsylvania, which both had closed primaries, seemed to face none of the issues that Arizona and New York did with unaffiliated voters trying to cast ballots.
There were no reported issues that we could find from Tuesday’s closed primary in Delaware.
Connecticut faced few problems on Tuesday and certainly none of the problems with same-day registration towns had faced in the past.
Probably the biggest issue in Connecticut was in the town of Wallingford where officials used schools as polling places. Some schools were requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to enter the building. It’s unclear how many, if any, voters were turned away, but the secretary of state’s office is investigating the situation in hopes of remedying it for the fall.
The state tested out a new results reporting system that allowed towns to electronically upload their results to the state’s reporting system making them available almost immediately. Although not all towns participated in the program for this election, the secretary of state’s office was pleased with how the new system worked.
“I think when you get used to it, it’ll be really good,” Berlin Republican Registrar Elizabeth Tedeschi told the New Britain Herald. “It’s easy putting the figures in, because all the numbers are added up and all the percentages were figured out. Years past, we’ve had to fax it — and wait and wait and wait — for it to go through, because the numbers were busy.”
The bulk of the problems in Maryland—which again, were minimal—happened in Baltimore where four polling places opened late and were kept open till 9 p.m. by court order. Also in Baltimore, city elections staff forgot to send “I Voted” stickers to polling places and staff spent the morning trying to get them to as many sites as possible.
In an interesting move, city health workers visited polling places offering residents training with the drug Narcan — an opioid overdose drug. “We figured people would be in line already to vote, so why not take some time and also learn to save a life,” Leana Wen, the city health commissioner told The Baltimore Sun. Health workers didn’t enter the polling places, but stood just outside with campaign workers.
Concerns with last-minute ballot changes and confusion about the Commonwealth’s closed primary system before the election didn’t seem to manifest themselves into too many actual problems on Tuesday, but the day was not problem free of course, but the problems were minimal.
In the Pittsburgh area, there was a report that a transgender woman was forced to return home and bring her official name-change paperwork back to the polling site in order to cast a ballot. Although her voter registration card had her current name on it, her state-issued driver’s license had her old name, gender and photo on it. Pennsylvania does not have a voter photo ID law and a staff attorney with the local ACLU said the voter should have never been asked for her photo ID and that Allegheny County needs to do more training for poll workers.
There were several reports of power outages in different areas of the state, but none of those outages affected voting.
In Philly, an apartment building that was being used as a polling site had locked up the voting machines overnight and early morning voters were forced to cast paper ballots.
And Mark Walters, a reporter with the York Daily Record has an interesting story about noticing a voter leaving a York County polling place with a gun holstered to his waist. According to the reporter an elections official for Conewago Township said that she had not noticed the gun when the voter entered the polling place. It’s unclear from the story whether guns are permitted in Pennsylvania polling places.
Rhode Island opened only one-third of their normal polling places on primary day and while there was some confusion and a few lines there were few reports of major problems, although Common Cause is calling on the state to make changes for future elections.
One interesting (and, we’re not going to lie, a bit sad) problem that arose with the polling place consolidation is that at least two voters reported they were unable to vote because the parking lot at the new polling location was too large for them to walk across. John Capuano, 90, told the Providence Journal that he would normally park right in front of his polling place, but his parking space at the new site was “400 feet, 500 feet” from the location and he could not walk that far. Capuano told the paper this is first election he’s missed in 75 years.
The voting site on Block Island nearly ran out of ballots on Tuesday. What made this issue more harrowing is that additional ballots had to be brought by ferry, which takes longer. When the additional ballots arrived at 6 p.m., the voting site was down to its last seven ballots.