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Eight-hour waits. Machine glitches. Why early voting in some states has had a tough begin

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By Reid J. Epstein, Stephanie Saul and Manny Fernandez

Virginia’s on-line voter registration portal crashed on the ultimate day it was obtainable when roadside utility employees lower the incorrect cable. Texans waited in lengthy traces on the primary day of early voting of their state’s largest cities, and in a single county within the Houston suburbs, a programming error took down all of the voting machines for a lot of the morning. On Georgia’s second day of early voting, lengthy traces once more constructed up at polling locations within the Atlanta suburbs.

The hurdles to early voting Tuesday resulted from a mix of intense voter curiosity that pressured the capability of overwhelmed native elections officers and the kind of messiness that has lengthy been frequent in American elections and which is now underneath a microscope as considerations over voter suppression and the unprecedented dynamics of voting throughout a pandemic collide.

The lengthy traces in Georgia and Texas illustrate how keen voters are to forged ballots within the 2020 election — significantly, however not solely, in Democratic-trending city and suburban areas. By 2 p.m. Tuesday, Harris County, Texas, which incorporates Houston, had smashed its first-day early-voting turnout file. In Gwinnett County, Georgia, north of Atlanta, even with the lengthy traces there was a 450% enhance in first-day early voting in contrast with 2016, based on Ryan Anderson, who tracks Georgia voting knowledge on the Georgia Votes web site.

In Virginia, which opened in-person early voting final month, Tuesday was the ultimate day to register to vote. But the state’s on-line voter registration portal went down early within the morning, slicing off entry each on-line and in native registrars’ places of work.

The web site crashed after a fiber optic cable was lower simply south of Richmond, based on the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, which handles the state’s cybersecurity. In a information convention, Gov. Ralph Northam mentioned the cable was “inadvertently cut during a roadside utilities project.”

Northam, a Democrat, mentioned that he didn’t have sole authority to vary the voter registration deadline however that he would help a authorized effort to ask a choose to increase the deadline.

“We’re looking at all of our options,” Northam mentioned. “As governor, I don’t have the authority” to change the deadline.

Virginia’s voter registration web site suggested folks to print out and full a paper utility, which can rely so long as it’s delivered to a voter registration workplace or postmarked Tuesday.

In Texas, the primary day of early voting introduced lengthy traces within the state’s main city facilities, with hourslong waits in San Antonio. Officials attributed the lengthy traces to excessive turnout, in addition to ballots that require extra time to fill out. A change in state legislation forbidding straight-ticket or one-punch voting means voters can now not select a celebration’s whole slate with one mark however should manually choose every candidate on the poll.

“They haven’t had one complaint on the machines,” mentioned Judge Nelson W. Wolff, the manager of Bexar County. “It’s just a huge turnout.”

An estimated three million new voters have registered within the state since 2016, which has had a internet enhance of 1.three million voters since 2018 alone.

Straight-ticket voting had been significantly well-liked amongst Democrats, and in Texas, the poll will be fairly cumbersome.

In Bexar County, which incorporates San Antonio, voters can choose candidates in three federal races and 18 state and county races, together with contests for mayors, metropolis councils, college districts and municipal referendums, amongst others. In Leon Valley, a metropolis of 10,000 surrounded by San Antonio, voters will determine on 29 separate poll questions.

In Fort Bend County, a fast-growing suburban space of greater than 800,000 folks southwest of Houston, voting machines at 30 early-voting websites didn’t work Tuesday morning due to a “programming glitch,” based on Judge Ok.P. George, the county’s high elected official.

George, a Democrat elected in 2018, mentioned that by 10 a.m. greater than 70% of voting machines on the county’s early voting websites had been again on-line.

“We are going to launch a full investigation — this is 100% unacceptable,” George mentioned. “Something bad happened, and I don’t have an exact answer for it.”

In Houston on Tuesday afternoon, the road on the polling web site on West Gray Street on the outer fringe of the River Oaks neighborhood wrapped round a part of a neighborhood heart as dozens of individuals stood within the warmth.

Voters mentioned a number of components had led them to vote early in particular person, together with considerations over the coronavirus and mail-in balloting, in addition to collaborating in what voters for each events described as a historic election.

“This is the most important election, I think, in many, many generations,” mentioned Lissa Tucker, 49, who’s pregnant and anticipating to ship her first little one subsequent week. “It’s always best to do it in person. So I really wanted to make sure I vote early so there’s less room for error and to make sure my vote counted.”

While early voting had simply gotten underway in Texas, heavy turnout continued for a second day in Georgia, however officers and activists mentioned the method appeared usually smoother than the day earlier than, when voters endured traces so long as eight hours.

Wait occasions Tuesday in Cobb County, Georgia, ranged from 45 minutes at one location to 6 hours at one other, based on Aklima Khondoker, the Georgia director of All Voting Is Local.

In Gwinnett County, the Democratic Party chairwoman, Bianca Keaton, reported lengthy traces and three-hour waits on the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds and eight hours at Gwinnett elections headquarters in Lawrenceville.

Jasper Watkins III, a candidate for county fee, criticized Gwinnett officers for disorganization.

“You don’t come to the Super Bowl with the C team,” Watkins mentioned. “All these people were out here, and they just don’t have it together. There were eight or nine stations to register and only four people manning them.”

Joe Sorenson, a spokesman for Gwinnett County, mentioned some voters had slowed down traces by arriving with absentee ballots in hand, but saying they wished to vote early — requiring an additional step.

While attributing lengthy traces to heavy turnout, he additionally blamed the state’s new computerized voting system for issues Tuesday.

“It has been slow at times today, and for a period of time, it was down altogether,” he mentioned.

Georgia officers reported a complete of 128,590 votes forged in early voting Monday — almost 38,000 greater than on the primary day of early voting in 2016.

The first day of early voting in Georgia didn’t lengthen to all the state. In 35 of the state’s 159 counties, polling websites didn’t open Monday, an obvious violation of the state’s early-voting legal guidelines.

Andy Holland, an assistant supervisor of election registration in Houston County, mentioned the county had not been required to open for early voting Monday as a result of Columbus Day is a county-observed vacation. “The confusion comes about because not every county observes Columbus Day,” Holland mentioned.

On Tuesday morning, some voters waited three hours at Houston County’s early voting web site in Perry, Georgia, although Holland mentioned that by the afternoon wait occasions had decreased to 20 to 30 minutes.

Also Tuesday, Judge Michael Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia turned away a lawsuit requesting that he order further personnel, coaching, gear and emergency paper ballots at Georgia polling locations to alleviate lengthy traces.

Documents within the lawsuit, filed in August by the Democratic Party, concluded that polling traces had been longer in Georgia neighborhoods with massive numbers of Black voters.


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