Malfunctioning technology, higher-than-expected voter turnout, and recently closed polling places were blamed for extensive delays and hours-long lines for voters in California and Texas on Tuesday. The problems hit hardest in Los Angeles and Houston, where polls stayed open until 1 a.m. Wednesday to allow voters to cast a ballot in the Democratic presidential primary.
Delays in Los Angeles were blamed on high turnout and a new system of electronic voter rolls, which allowed voters to cast their ballots at any of the city’s new voting centers. The technology was apparently not ready for prime time though, and an “overwhelmed” system to check in voters resulted in “major backups,” the New York Times reports.
But that wasn’t close to the only problem. As the night dragged on, voters reported failing ballot-marking devices, short-staffed voting centers, and confusion over the new voting system.
As polls prepared to close at 8 p.m., Bernie Sanders’s campaign asked a federal judge to intervene and force polling places to stay open until 10 p.m. The complaint alleged that “multiple polling locations in the County have experienced extreme wait times for individuals to vote, including wait times up to four hours to cast a ballot.”
“The new technology has resulted in problems because of check-in stations not working and machine failures, with insufficient or overwhelmed tech support and an inability to implement back-ups,” the complaint said.
The request was denied but voters who were in line by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. still allowed to vote. Sanders went on to win California.
Some Los Angeles voters told reporters that they hopped around voting stations all day, hoping to find a short wait. It didn’t always work.
One voter said she visited her Toluca Lake vote center, St. Charles Borromeo Church, Tuesday afternoon only to have to come back Tuesday night due to the long wait.
“It was a 2.5-hour wait then, and I only had a couple hours off of work, so I hit up another location and it was also a 2.5-hour wait,” she said. “At the end of the day, I thought I’d come into a shorter line, but it’s twice as long.”
“Obviously, not the rollout we had hoped for,” Dean Logan, the L.A. County registrar, said Tuesday. “The majority of the issues we dealt with today are on the technical end, connected to the check-in process.”
Meanwhile, waits in Texas were even worse. Voters in Dallas and Houston reported waiting in line for stretches as long as six hours.
The problem was particularly acute at Texas Southern University, a historically black college in Houston. Lines were so long there when polls closed at 7 p.m. that the county clerk sent additional voting machines.
The issues causing such long waits included high turnout, aging technology, and a primary system that left Democrats waiting to use voting machines while machines on the Republican side of the room sat unused. And of course, there were the recent moves in Texas to close polling places, which has made it harder for people, especially racial minorities, to vote.