US midterm poll: Officials scramble after balloting problems

Republicans in Arizona unsuccessfully sued to extend voting hours, with Trump and his allies calling a few non-functioning tabulation machines evidence of a fix

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP


Published: Wed 9 Nov 2022, 8:18 AM

Unsubstantiated allegations of fraud, prompted by isolated voting issues and amplified by Donald Trump, left US election officials vying to defend the integrity of Tuesday's midterm poll.

Officials said the hiccups were not expected to change the vote's outcome -- but that didn't stop some figures on the right from seizing on them.

Republicans in Arizona's bitterly contested Maricopa County unsuccessfully sued to extend voting hours, with Trump and his allies calling a few non-functioning tabulation machines evidence of a fix.

"The widespread issues... are completely unacceptable, especially as Republicans flock to the polls to vote in-person," said a statement from the Republican National Committee, announcing the lawsuit.

A judge denied the suit and the polls closed on schedule.

Officials in Maricopa County -- which includes Phoenix, the fifth most populous US city -- said early in the day a minority of the 223 polling stations had experienced difficulties.

The county became ground zero for Trump-driven election denial-ism after his 2020 loss.

President Joe Biden won Arizona by a razor-thin 10,000 votes that year, with clutch support from densely populated Maricopa.

But in rural parts of Arizona, a state that previously leaned Republican, that result sparked conspiracy theories.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said, "We've got about 20 per cent of the locations out there where there's an issue with the tabulator."

By early afternoon Maricopa County Elections Department tweeted they had resolved the issues at several polling centers.

Gates said the broken-down machines would not impact the poll's reliability, adding that paper ballots would be transferred in a secure box to a central election facility for tabulation.


Trump and his supporters for two years have pushed groundless ballot stuffing claims despite numerous investigations, including one funded by Republicans, that found no evidence of fraud.

Republican candidates for Arizona's secretary of state, governor and a US Senate seat all subscribe to the debunked theory, and say they would not have certified Biden's win.

Masked poll watchers, some of them armed, have monitored early voting drop boxes in what they dubbed an effort to prevent ballot stuffing, until a judge ordered them to keep their distance.

Non-partisan county officials have mounted a huge voter confidence operation, holding open meetings and inviting citizens to inspect security procedures.

But some social media users took Tuesday's breakdowns as proof there was cheating afoot, with videos of election workers explaining the malfunction viewed millions of times.

Trump-endorsed candidate for secretary of state, Kari Lake, acknowledged she had voted without difficulty but lashed out at the disruptions, hinting they may have been deliberate.

"This is incompetency. I hope it's not malice," she said.

On the Truth Social platform Trump denounced the county.

"Reports are coming in from Arizona that the Voting Machines are not properly working in predominantly Republican/Conservative areas," he wrote.

"Can this possibly be true when a vast majority of Republicans waited for today to Vote? Here we go again? The people will not stand for it!!!"

In Georgia -- where Trump-endorsed former National Football League star Herschel Walker is battling incumbent Raphael Warnock -- officials in Cobb County shipped hundreds of forms to voters overnight after a clerical error affected more than 1,000 people who requested absentee ballots.

Some have since opted to cast their vote by another method. The rest will have their votes counted as long as they are postmarked by election day.

In Harris County, Texas's third most populous, voters found closed gates, long lines and non-operational voting machines, the Washington Post reported.

County elections office spokesperson Nadia Hakim cited complaints from more than half a dozen polling stations, including a crowded spot where one-third of the 60 voting machines were not working, creating long lines.

Hakim said the issue was particularly noticeable there because the polling location is the county's busiest.

The machines were fixed by mid-morning, according to the Post.

Non-partisan organization praised "transparency" from election officials and said the country's isolated incidents were not expected to alter the ballot.

"There are reports in several states that some voting machines are having technical problems," CEO Andrea Hailey said.

"Officials are working hard to resolve those issues and ensure voters have other options."

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