Voting Machine Hell, 2018: A Running List of Election Glitches, Malfunctions, and Screwups

Illustration for article titled Voting Machine Hell, 2018: A Running List of Election Glitches, Malfunctions, and Screwups
Photo: Ethan Miller (Getty)

The 2018 midterm elections are well underway, and you know what that means: another opportunity for local election commissions to display widespread incompetence and/or ratfuckery.


Just like every year I can recall, a slew of polling stations are reporting technical issues ranging from scanners breaking down to electronic machines seemingly changing people’s votes. (This is to say nothing of the widespread efforts to inconvenience, disenfranchise, or otherwise unnecessarily complicate the voting processes, it’s own rich topic for another blog.) After all, many of these machines are around 15 years old and local election staffers have documented calibration issues with them in previous races. Why should this election be any different?

Below is a running tally of the rich tapestry of malfunctions being reported at polling stations across the country. If you experience issues voting, call the U.S. Department of Justice at (800) 253-3931 or the Election Protection Coalition at (866) OUR-VOTE. You can also tip us with a detailed message, and we’ll be glad to update this post.


Some machines were unable to properly scan paper ballots, which had swollen due to humidity.



Ballot printer issues were reported at Queen Creek Library and Chandler City Hall, while Deer Valley Airport voters were asked to cast provisional ballots due to as-yet unspecified technical issues.




Express Polls, which check voters in, were down at an estimated four locations in Gwinnett County, leading to long lines. One of those locations—Anderson Livsey Elementary—had all of its machines cease functioning because “the machine was not supplied power and was running on battery and the battery ran out.” Nothing to see here, everything’s working as intended.




Ballots in many states (including New York) are two pages long. Unfortunately, voters reported only receiving one page of their ballots in at least seven polling locations around the greater Chicago area.


[NBC Chicago]


A reportedly “overwhelmed” poll worker failed to turn on the necessary scanning equipment at a Jonson County location. Around Fort Wayne, two locations appeared to not be printing tickets, resulting in slow processing “leading some people to leave before voting.”


[Indystar; WANE]


Election workers at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit were initially unable to find the voting machines, creating hour-plus delays.




At a St. Louis County location, a volunteer stated that ballots were spat back out by the scanner, telling local reporters that “at least half of the ballots (here) are being rejected.” In Clay County, delays reportedly stretched to over two hours at some locations, due to malfunctioning equipment or power outages.



New Jersey

Voters at a Union County location were told to come back in an hour due to a broken machine.



New York

Reports of long lines and broken equipment were reported across New York City, with the undisputed champion of fuck-ups going to Breukelen Community Center, a building which voters were locked out of for around two hours due to a “programming error.”


Voters at one Lower Hudson Valley polling station had machines shipped to them for the wrong district.


[ProPublica; WCBS; NYC BoE; LoHud]


Billinghurst Middle School and Rollan Melton Elementary had waits up to 40 minutes due to (say it with me) unspecified technical issues.



North Carolina

That humidity problem in Alabama? Same issue in multiple precincts of NC, where ballots are being stored in “emergency bins” until they can be read.




A litany of polling places experienced issues—some described as “malfunctions,” while others were attributed to operator error due to additional steps added to the process for voters who did not intend to cast a ballot in all races. Call it bad UX.


Worse yet, an unknown number of voters in Geauga County were marked as having already voted due to what’s being described as a “computer glitch.”

[13ABC; Cincinnati; Cleveland]


Broken machines in the 51st ward’s 6th division, “calibration” issues changing intended votes to another candidate in Irwin, missing machines in Squirrel Hill, and yet more calibration issues in Lebanon.


[Philly; TribLive; CBS Pittsburgh; LDNews]

Rhode Island

Some locations opened late because to a few poll workers “had some trouble entering passwords.” Who among us.



South Carolina

Calibration issues causing votes to switch in at least three precincts in Richland County, and malfunctions with the cartridges used to boot up the voting machines in an additional eight precincts made the machines unusable for hours.




Widespread “calibration” issues appeared to disadvantage Democratic candidates in an already remarkably tight Senate race. Cool! Not to mention in Arlington after electronic machines failed, it was determined there was an insufficient number of paper ballots.


[Politico; Law&Crime]

We’ll be updating this list as Election Day 2018 wears on. Experience problems while voting? Shoot us an email at


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You need to:
1. make voting on this level a federal matter, with rules set down by a federal authority, and checked by a federal auhority. Voting that affects all the states should not be done according to differen rules in different states. It is essentially undemocratic.
2. have all voting happen on weekends, when the most people are free from their jobs.
3. have voting places that are open at least two whole weeks before the final election date.
4. have many voting places, so that you will not have lines over one hour anywhere.
5. vote with paper ballots, not machines. Preferably by the voter choosing a ballot that represents their candidate &/or party, so to avoid questions of improperly filled ballots. If necessary with ballots that get marked, use a system where one does it by hand, not machine.
6. hand count the paper ballots. Twice - one preliminary count on right after the ballots close. And once more on Monday, and at a pace that makes it 99,999% certain.

This is how most countries does it.