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Trump seizes on glitches to fuel ‘rigged’ election rumors

“There are reports that when people vote for Republicans, the entire ticket switches to Democrat,” Donald Trump said. | AP Photo

Long lines, computer glitches and other isolated problems marked the opening hours of Election Day 2016.

But at least for now, there’s been none of the widespread chaos that the Cassandras had been predicting for months, from the threat of cyberattacks crippling state and local election offices to voter intimidation drowning out turnout.

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“It’s never been easier to vote,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign proclaimed Tuesday in a press release chronicling tweets from supporters in battleground states reporting an uneventful beginning to the day, including this post from Adam Jardy in Ohio: “Area Man Slightly Disappointed In Quick, Uneventful Voting Experience.”

For his part, Donald Trump signaled in a Fox News interview he was far from satisfied with how well the voting process was going. Reprising the “rigged” rhetoric the Republican nominee has used for months on the campaign stump, Trump hesitated when asked if he’d be accept the election results — win or lose. “We’re going to see how things play out,” he said, citing news reports of voting machines that aren’t accurately tabulating people’s votes.

“There are reports that when people vote for Republicans, the entire ticket switches to Democrat,” Trump said. “You have seen that, it is happening at various places today, it’s been reported. There are machines. You put down Republican and it registers them as a Democrat. And there have been lots of complaints about that today. We have to be careful, we have to see what it is.”

The Trump campaign also has taken its first step to challenge the election results in Nevada, a hotly contested battleground state. In a legal action filed Monday, the campaign accused the Clark County registrar of keeping an early voting location open for two extra hours to aid Democratic turnout. Clark County, in a statement on Twitter, responded to the challenge by noting is already preserving early voting records, as required by state law.

A judge, however, quickly denied Trump’s legal action because the campaign hadn’t tried to work out a solution with the county registrar.

Voting nationwide is of course still far from finished, and the civil rights groups monitoring the election painted a much grimmer picture of what’s playing out at tens of thousands of polling places from coast to coast. They warned that the combination of caustic campaign rhetoric, Trump’s calls for his supporters to be on guard against election fraud, and the fallout from the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision tossing out a key provision of the Voting Rights Act had actually unleashed widespread confusion and upheaval.

“There is tremendous disruption at the polls today all across the country,” Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, told reporters during a briefing in Washington.

“This election may be the most chaotic election faced by voters of color and voters with disabilities, that they’ve faced in the last 15 years…What we’re seeing today is really a perfect storm for voter disenfranchisement,” he added.

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“What we have observed is an uptick in the number of complaints regarding voter intimidation and voter harassment,” said Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-profit group managing an 866 helpline that has gotten more than 75,000 calls during the 2016 cycle raising everything from voter intimidation and ID requirements to broken election equipment.

“This is a moment where the calls are [at] a fever pitch,” Clarke said.

But the examples that Clarke and other advocates offered Tuesday involving various incidents of voter intimidation and harassment came off as more isolated – a lack of Spanish-language translators in Miami, demands for voter ID in Pennsylvania, long lines in Virginia because of machine problems – that didn’t quite match up with the high-pitched rhetoric Americans have been hearing that suggested widespread, broad-based disruptions.

In Broward County, Florida, for example, two precinct clerks, one Democrat and one Republican, were fired after police responded to a dispute between them, local news reported.

While there were some reports of heated arguments breaking out between voters waiting in lines, some voting rights advocates said they were troubled by what they viewed as unnecessary and excessive police presences at polling places, particularly in African-American neighborhoods.

In Greene County in southwest Missouri, local officials backed away from plans to post uniformed sheriff’s deputies at polling places after the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, the Advancement Project and a local bar association complained.

“Law enforcement presence at the polls can absolutely have a chilling effect on communities and most especially our minority communities,” Clarke said.

Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller told POLITICO Tuesday the officers would still be at the polls, but wearing plain clothes instead of uniforms. He said the deputies’ main purpose was to help voters use voting machines, and they would also defuse any confrontations.

“The concerns that were expressed, they don’t have that reputation in Greene County,” Schoeller said. “They wanted us to have no law enforcement there. We’ve had election workers as well as voters who expressed concern to me after this election season because of what they saw in media.”

Schoeller also justified the deputies’ presence by citing reported threats from Islamic State terrorists to attack the U.S. elections.

The Advancement Project’s Denise Lieberman said her group reported the episode to Justice Department officials, but she also said she welcomed Schoeller’s decision to change plans.

“We were certainly gratified that the clerk in Springfield took our concerns about voter intimidation seriously and altered his program,” Lieberman said.

With nerves still raw in Missouri over the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson two years ago, civil rights groups also asked for polling places in or near police stations to be moved, an effort Lieberman said was met with mixed success.

For months, state and local election officials have been bracing for problems with their ballot machines and dealing with warnings about crippling cyberattacks that would leave thousands of voters wiped from the registration rolls.

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But so far at least, the reports have been limited. In Durham County, North Carolina, a computer glitch at some polling sites left local election officials to check in voters manually. The county already used paper ballots, and voting wasn’t interrupted, according to the county’s Twitter account. Even so, the county board of elections has reportedly voted to extend voting hours for an additional 90 minutes because of the mishap, and state officials posted to social media they’ll meet later today to consider any requests for more time to keep the polls open.

Some of the problems surrounding Election Day involved political chicanery. In Oregon, misleading robocalls last week prompted Democratic officials to file complaints against their GOP colleagues.

On Twitter, the social media network posted an official video refuting vote-by-text scams. And a 4chan message board is being used to promote that deception, as well as fake Clinton campaign ads, BuzzFeed reported.

The state of alert also led to some false alarms. Text messages directing Indiana voters to incorrect polling places resulted from a data glitch by the state’s Democratic Party, affecting fewer than 2,000 people. Vote.org, a nonprofit that helps people navigate voting procedures, relies on imperfect public data sets, but sends people the address on file so they can recognize if there’s an error. The North Carolina State Board of Elections tweeted that it isn’t sending emails or texts, and voters should verify any unsolicited information.

And the retail store Urban Outfitters was forced to apologize Tuesday after publishing a voting guide laden with misleading information, including telling people they were required to have a “voter’s registration card” and an ID in order to cast a ballot on Election Day.

Such requirements vary widely by state. No state mandates use of a voter registration card, while 18 states and Washington, D.C. don’t require any identification from voters.

The Philadelphia-based company in a statement blamed the errors on a member of its content team “who made a mistake in researching the voting requirements.”

“When this error was brought to our attention, we immediately updated the post to not only correct the information but also included an additional link for state-by-state voter ID requirements for readers to reference,” the company said. “We are deeply sorry for any confusion this error may have caused. In the future, we will be installing more stringent fact-checking procedures to ensure these types of error do not happen.”

Urban Outfitters has updated its voter guide and deleted a tweet it posted Monday drawing attention to the effort.

Kyle Cheney, Sergio Bustos and Victoria Guida contributed to this report.

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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