Midterms 2018: Voters face malfunctioning machines and long lines at polls across country on Election Day
Malfunctioning machines, voter confusion and locked polling sites were among the early problems on Election Day as millions of Americans prepared to cast ballots Tuesday in a midterm election fueling an outpouring of enthusiasm — and frustratingly long lines.
Nick Alexander, 50, first arrived at his polling place in Snellville, Georgia, at 7:15 a.m. He didn't leave until about three hours later.
"The lines were very long, but had they opened up and done everything right, it would have been a breeze," Alexander said. "We could get in and get out, and people could make it to work on time."
The machines at Anderson Livsey Elementary School were no longer running after their batteries died. A Gwinnett County spokesman said the appropriate power cords had to be retrieved, and the machines were working again at around 9:15 a.m.
Alexander said there were only a couple of poll workers checking IDs, and the line "moved at a snail's pace."
That wasn't the only issue in Snellville, a small city in suburban Atlanta: At another elementary school, faulty polling machines caused a 25-minute delay after the site opened, and people were not given paper ballots as is protocol. The issue was later fixed, a Gwinnett County spokesman told NBC News.
A judicial order later mandated that the polls must remain open 25 minutes longer because of the delay.
During a news conference in Snellville outside of a polling site, former Democratic state Sen. Jason Cutter said people were waiting in line for four-and-a-half hours in some cases. But he was hopeful — even if some voters were visibly annoyed: "If they had to leave, they're all coming back," he said.
Georgia is among the key battleground states in the 2018 midterms, and Democrat Stacey Abrams is neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Brian Kemp, the secretary of state. Georgia has been roiled by claims of attempted voter hacking and the purging of tens of thousands of voters, most of whom are black, from its rolls.
Across the country, there remains a larger concern over voting irregularities and the potential for fraud following a 2016 election tainted by accusations of Russian meddling. Congress earlier this year approved $380 million to help safeguard U.S. voting systems. States divvied up the pot, part of which has gone toward improving cyber-security and new voting equipment.
Department of Homeland Security officials said Tuesday that while they have seen reports of voting machine issues contributing to some delays in a few states, there was so far no substantial impact on voting. Problems caused by severe weather in the Deep South and East Coast also have been minimal, the officials said.
The DHS officials added that there was no immediate uptick in hacking attempts, also known as "scanning," which are typical during elections.
Still, technical difficulties and voter confusion abounded in some states on Tuesday.
In Geauga County, Ohio, east of Cleveland, some voters reported that when they went to the polls, they were incorrectly told that they had already filed for absentee ballots.
Debbie Reiter, the director of the Board of Elections in Geauga County, said staff was being sent to the county's 35 voting locations to fix the issue and that all precincts in Chardon, the county seat, were already fixed.
The problem occurred because of a miscommunication with the county's vendors — specifically, "the voter registration system did not talk with the electronic poll pads," Reiter said.
Meanwhile, ballots in Wake County, North Carolina, couldn't be fed into tabulators because "high humidity levels" were affecting the machines.
In that case, the North Carolina's Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement said the ballots were being stored in "emergency bins" until the moisture problem was resolved.
"All ballots will be counted," the board said in a statement.
Reports of voting difficulties, including polling sites unable to handle the huge lines or not open in time, upset New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who tweeted that NYC Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan should step down.
"Bad weather and high turnout are no excuse when we have forecasts for both. Michael Ryan needs to resign and we need a full top to bottom review of what went wrong today," Johnson said.
“It is like groundhog day every single election day sadly in New York," Johnson told NBC News early Tuesday afternoon. "Long lines, machines aren’t working, and chaos at voting site. Today we are getting reports of this in every single neighborhood in all 5 boroughs."
The city BOE did not immediately responded to NBC News request for comment.
Linda Santangelo, who lives on the Upper East Side, tweeted a picture of a cramped hallway at her polling site. "I have never seen so many people voting," she said after waiting an hour to fill out a ballot.
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, voters who tried to cast ballots early at the Breukelen Community Center arrived to find firefighters prying open a locked polling place at 6 a.m.
"People outside the voting station were saying that they can't vote because they have to go back to work," said Brooklyn resident Jalessa Parris.
The firefighters managed to open the doors, Parris said, but it turned out to be the wrong entrance. Parris said she left, and about an hour later, waited for more poll workers to arrive.
By about 8 a.m., a worker had arrived with the right key, and she was able to vote by about 8:30 a.m., Parris said.
She remained upset, however, that it took over two hours for her to vote.
"It doesn't make sense that one person had one key to open up this community center," she said.