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Election Day 2018: A Brennan Center Live Blog

Live updates throughout the day and evening as we track how democracy fares, with a focus on turnout, voting problems, election security, and pro-voter ballot measures. (All times EST)

  • Brennan Center for Justice
November 6, 2018



9:17 pm

A huge win for democracy in Florida

Florida will restore voting rights to as many as 1.4 million residents who have a past felony conviction, after passing a ballot measure that the Brennan Center is proud to have helped draft. That includes 10 percent of the state’s voting age population and more than 20 percent of African American adults. 





8:36 pm

Good news for fair maps in Pennsylvania…




6:43 pm

Registration problems highlight need for AVR

We’re hearing from voters who are experiencing problems related to registration. Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, explains how automatic voter registration can help.





5:35 pm

Long lines could disproportionately affect minority voters…

Voters across the country, and especially in Georgia, are reporting experiences with long lines at the polls today. According to a Brennan Center study, precincts with minority populations face some of the longest voting lines in the country. “It could be a barrier to casting a ballot that counts,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program.




4:49 pm

Georgia looks like the big story…

Every election, one state seems to stand out as the poster child for voting problems. It’s too early to tell for sure, but it looks like this year it might be Georgia, which also hosts a high-profile governor’s race. In various locations across the state, there are reports of voters waiting in line for hours – especially in heavily African American districts.
In Fulton County, voters waited for hours to cast their ballots after the county mistakenly installed only three voting machines.
Common Cause says some voters are waiting up to three hours in the Atlanta area. 
There are also the problems we reported earlier in Gwinnett County, where faulty machines contributed to lines of over 3 hours.
And of course, this comes after weeks of pre-election controversy about the state’s strict registration and voting rules, which threaten to hit minorities especially hard.



3:39 pm

New York needs to fix its voting system…

More from Brennan Center president Michael Waldman:

Hey, New York. Yes, you. I know, we’re the Empire State, if you can make it here, etc. But our voting system is among the worst in the country. The tourists from other states that we all make fun of? They have better elections than we do.

In other states, they disenfranchise people on purpose. Here, it’s a product of incompetence and antiquated laws. The incompetence of the Board of Elections is the stuff of legend – like the pizza rat in the subway. 

One out of three voters nationwide vote early. Not here. We have no same day registration, either. No easily available vote by mail for those who want it. No automatic voter registration. When North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law was challenged in court a few years ago, the state’s attorneys defended it by noting that it was still better than in New York.

Today at my crunchy polling place in deep blue Park Slope, Brooklyn (home of Chuck Schumer, Bill DeBlasio, and the Park Slope Food Co-op), a presidential sized throng of would-be voters filled the school cafeteria. Lines snaked around the room. Machines jammed. When I changed my mind and asked for a new ballot, the very nice person staffing the table kept my old ballot out in plain sight for all to see for a little while, before stuffing it under a box. I know that things were much worse in other places in the state. All this in a year with few competitive elections.

The likeliest result of the election will be a reelected Gov. Andrew Cuomo, together with a Democratic Senate and Assembly for the first time in decades. The new majority will have no excuse. Fixing New York’s dysfunctional democracy should be a very early priority. Automatic voter registration, early voting, and small donor campaign financing matter the most.



3:22 pm

Turnout: Huge early voting numbers…

More than 38 million early or absentee votes have been counted this year. That’s compared to 21 million in 2014. And it includes more than 3 million people under the age of 30, according to Tom Bonier, a Democratic political consultant and data cruncher. And 1.7 million early voters were voting in their first ever election.




3:08 pm

Long lines aren’t a sign of a healthy democracy…

Brennan Center president Michael Waldman weighs in for the live blog:

Today like every other election day, cable news shows footage of people waiting in long lines. It’s heartwarming, like in a Frank Capra movie from the 1930s. Look how strong turnout is! Look how much they care! All true. 

At the same time, it’s appalling. For starters, those long lines don’t appear everywhere. They tend to be in more densely populated, urban districts peopled by minority voters or students. (In other words, ahem, Democrats.) 

A key reason is out of date or broken voting machines. There are often problems with voter lists, too. And investment simply lags in some places. There are some bland reasons for this: turnout can vary more in those precincts from year to year.  

But overall, it’s wildly unfair to people who have to get to work, take care of children, or any of the other everyday things there are to do … other than nobly standing on line to vote. This can be fixed. Wider availability of early voting helps a lot (and already, one third of citizens vote before Election Day). And the Brennan Center has proposed national legislation to set a standard for voting lines, to make sure every precinct has enough. Nobody should have to wait more than half an hour to vote, period. 

No matter how inspiring it may be.




2:15 pm

The emerging story: voting machine failures

As the day goes on, we’re getting a clearer picture of the issues we’re seeing. And at least so far, voting machines problems, which can then often lead to long lines, are at the top of the list. 

Voters in various precincts across the St. Louis area, for instance, are reporting very long lines and malfunctioning equipment. And in Gwinnett County, Georgia, reports have surfaced of machine failures due to a lack of power cords.

For years, the Brennan Center has been sounding the alarm on our outdated machines, many of which haven’t been replaced in over a decade, and which are vulnerable not just to breakdowns but to cyberattacks, too. Let’s hope today’s events, while not stopping anyone from voting, help underline the urgency.



12:28 pm

Reports of “vote flipping” in South Carolina county…

Voters in Richland County, South Carolina are reporting issues with “vote flipping,” or machines that record a vote for one candidate as a vote for another. Election officials believe the problems were caused by a calibration issue with voting machines.
Officials appear to have fixed the problem. But the issue popped up in several places during early voting too. It’s yet another reminder that our aging voting machines urgently need to be replaced. And if voters see their machines flip votes at their polling location, they should tell poll workers, who in turn should take the compromised system out of commission.



12:01 pm

Facing machine problems, Georgia county uses paper ballots…

One of our key recommendations for election administrators is to have paper ballots on hand in case machines fail. Gwinnett County, Georgia just showed why it’s so important. 

Machines being used to check voters into their precincts went down this morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, causing long lines. But poll workers used paper rolls and voters used paper ballots, which will later be scanned by machines. At least some of the machine problems have now been resolved. 




11:16 am

Scattered reports of voting issues…

We’re seeing scattered reports this morning of voters experiencing polling place problems.
Voting machines were missing at one polling location in Detroit.
Multiple locations across Houston are experiencing long lines due to technical difficulties with voting machines.
And at least one polling location in Maricopa County, Arizona, has reported “building access issues.”
It’s worth being aware of these issues so we can make our election system better. Here are our recommendations on how to improve voting machines and election administration. But it’s nothing that should stop people from voting! 


11:04 am

On the ballot in Florida: voting rights

This year, Floridians will vote on the Voting Restoration Amendment, or Amendment 4. The measure would restore voting rights to Floridians with a past felony conviction, who are currently barred for life from voting, and who are disproportionately non-white. That would represent a huge step forward for democracy in the nation’s fourth largest state. 




10:50 am

How to fix our democracy…

The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell offers some ideas, with input from Wendy Weiser, the director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy program. 




10:10 am

Control of the House is up for grabs. That’s because the maps are rigged…

As the Brennan Center’s Tim Lau explains, if it weren’t for extreme gerrymandering tilting the playing field, Democrats would be a lock to win. And even if they win anyway, gerrymandering will still have skewed the results, preventing the will of voters from fully being heard. It’s yet another reason why we need fair maps




9:30 am

What to do if you encounter problems at the polls…

Myrna Pérez, a deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy program and the leader of our voting rights team, has put together an expert guide. The key piece of advice: Don’t be deterred! If you’re eligible, you have a right to cast a ballot and have it counted. 




9:18 am

About those DOJ monitors…

There was some concern about possible voter intimidation over the news that the Justice Department will send monitors to polling places. Given the Trump administration’s troubling record on voting rights, that concern was understandable. But Justin Levitt, a former Brennan Center expert who helped lead the Obama Justice Department’s monitoring program, offers some useful perspective:




9:01 am

More evidence that people really like early voting…

This is pretty amazing: Three states that host key Senate races — Texas, Nevada, and Arizona — saw more early voting this year than they saw total voting (early voting plus Election Day) in 2014, according to the respected numbers cruncher Michael McDonald…


We’ve called for states to expand early voting, which makes voting more convenient, especially for people who don’t have a flexible schedule. 




6:00 am

Welcome to the Brennan Center’s live blog of the 2018 election 

After all the fundraising, the organizing, the campaigning, the debating, the prognosticating and the tweeting, Election Day 2018 is finally here. Polls are now open in some Eastern states. Brennan Center experts will be helping to staff Election Protection call centers where voters can report problems (Call 866 OUR-VOTE!). And they’ll be monitoring how voting is going across the country.

Some of the key things we’ll be watching for: Are long lines, registration problems, intimidation, or voting machine snafus creating hurdles for some would-be voters? What recourse is being offered? What about cyber-attacks? How is turnout looking? In the last midterms, it dropped to a record low, but there are already strong signs that this year could well be a different story. What’s the latest on pro-democracy ballot initiatives like Florida’s voting rights restoration measure and Michigan’s redistricting reform? Will we get a Congress that supports strengthening our democracy, or one that’s ok with the troubling status quo?

In other words, there’s a lot on the line for democracy today. So stay tuned to find out how it’s going. But most of all: Vote.