US voter advocates file lawsuits over poll delays in two states

US voter advocates file lawsuits over poll delays in two states

WASHINGTON,. Voting rights activists sued Arizona and Georgia asking them to extend voting hours in some counties after problems with voting machines led to delays and long lines thanks to a big turnout in US elections this morning.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said it had won an extension in Fulton County, Georgia, one county in about a dozen US states that experienced delays, largely in sites still using aging voting machines overwhelmed by the volume of voters, according to officials and rights groups.

The US Department of Homeland Security described the problems as “sparse,” and an official told reporters they did not seem to have been a significant impediment to voting in the elections, which will determine if Republicans keep control of both the US House of Representatives and Senate.

Some Georgia voters saw lines of hundreds of people waiting to cast ballots to pick their next governor following a bitter and racially charged contest in the southern state.

Fulton County officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

In Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest which includes the Phoenix area, several polling places experienced delays due to printer malfunctions, County Recorder Adrian Fontes said.

The Lawyers’ Committee sued the county government to extend voting by two hours at 50 polling locations that experienced delays. Polls in the state were scheduled to close at 9 p.m. ET (0200 GMT Wednesday).

Two senior legal experts who advise the Democratic Party told Reuters they were unaware of any serious hacking or electronic disruptions related to yesterday’s midterm elections anywhere in the United States. But one of the experts said that lines at polling places in Georgia were long and disruptive.

Officials in Philadelphia and North Carolina reported scattered voting machine outages, and addressed the problems by offering provisional ballots to some voters. Voter advocacy groups alleged equipment-driven delays in Florida and Texas.

Aging machines

Delays appeared to be most common in states with aging voting machines, said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those states are at the top,” Norden said. “I would also imagine that it’s worse just because this seems to be a much higher turnout election, and I think when you get a much higher turnout election, the same problem will look a lot worse.”

He also noted that there seemed to be fewer complaints of faulty voting equipment compared with the last US congressional midterm elections in 2014 in states that have updated their machines, such as Virginia. Norden emphasized that his observation was based on anecdotal reports.

Broken voting machines were reported in at least 12 states yesterday, according to an “election protection” coalition of more than 100 groups that set up a national hotline for reporting irregularities.

In Georgia, the state sent investigators to look into problems with digital poll books, said state spokeswoman Candice Broce. Some voters were given provisional ballots instead of using regular voting machines, she said.

Postal worker Shirley Thorn, 56, said technical problems caused her to wait more than four hours at a polling station in Snellville, Georgia, to cast her ballot.

“I was determined I was going to cast my ballot today because it’s a very important election,” Thorn said. Snellville is in Gwinnett County, Georgia, which was not addressed by the Lawyers’ Committee suit.

Civil rights groups have already been locked in litigation with several states over voting restrictions that were passed in the lead-up to yesterday’s election.

North Dakota introduced a voter ID requirement that Native Americans say discriminates against them; Kansas and Georgia moved polling locations, and changes in Tennessee registration laws led to people being removed from the voting lists.

Advocacy groups said the changes stack the deck against minority voters who are likely to support Democratic candidates.

Each of those hotly contested states’ top election officials have said the changes were made to protect against voter fraud and accommodate budgetary constraints, not to suppress voting.

Independent studies have found that voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States. — Reuters