Election problems persist ... this time in Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Texas

Despite the lower turnout in the off-year election, precincts in various counties still faced problems with voting machines, ballot shortages and faulty scanners.
Voters cast their ballots at the Rummel Creek Elementary polling place on November 6, 2018 in Houston, Texas.

Voters in counties nationwide ran into a handful of different issues at polling locations during Election Day on Tuesday, from voting machines flipping votes in a Pennsylvania county to electronic poll books malfunctioning in Louisville, Kentucky.

Several states had statewide, local, and/or municipal elections on Tuesday, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The first two states had gubernatorial elections, while the last two had local and statewide ballot questions or judicial races.

Because these were off-year elections, turnout was lower than either midterm or presidential elections, as local news outlets reported. During the larger turnout in both the 2020 presidential and 2022 midterm elections, counties in various states experienced numerous irregularities that led to a plethora of lawsuits.

Now, just a year out from the 2024 presidential general election and only months away from state primary elections, several jurisdictions still have problems running polling locations smoothly.

Kentucky: In Louisville, 17 polling districts experienced issues with their electronic poll books, in which voters sign in to cast their ballots, reported local CBS News affiliate WLKY. As a result, the districts resorted to using paper rosters to sign in voters.

Several precincts in Jefferson County were ordered by the local circuit court to extend their voting hours by a half an hour, until 6:30 p.m. EST, because those polls were closed for half an hour in the morning, reported WLKY. Some of the precincts closed because of a potential gas leak, while others closed as a result of a police pursuit in the area.

Mississippi: There were ballot shortages in Hinds County, resulting in a judge yesterday extending voting times by an hour, to 9 p.m. EST. According to the Associated Press, Hinds County Supervisor Credell Calhoun said, "This is way beyond anything we've seen in the electoral process. As hard as we worked to get the vote out and then you're going to have stupidity to not have enough ballots."

Pennsylvania: Electronic voting machines flipped votes yesterday in Northampton County for deciding whether Pennsylvania Superior Court Judges Jack Panella and Victor Stabile should remain on the bench for additional 10-year terms. 

The office of Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said all poll workers were notified to tell voters before entering the voting booth about the problem with recording the vote.

McClure also explained that all 300-plus of the county's voting machines are affected by the issue, which was caused by a coding error by voting machine company Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the Associated Press also reported.

He added that the county’s elections staff missed the issue during testing of the voting machines. McClure said that votes will be corrected during tabulation.

A company spokesperson, Katina Granger, told the wire service that the problem was caused by human error, was limited to Northampton County and only affected the judicial retention question.

Texas: In Harris County, at one polling place, voters were unable to cast ballots for close to 90 minutes because of a malfunctioning ballot scanner, the Houston Chronicle reported. An election judge at the location estimated that about 20 people left without voting. It reportedly took four attempts at rebooting the system before it worked. At other polling locations, one polling place reported half of the voting machines had technical issues, while another precinct’s controller computer didn’t work for hours. Yet another polling place had two broken voting machines while another location had difficulties with half of the voting machines.

Harris County experienced issues in both the 2020 and 2022 elections. This year, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to address election failures specifically related to Harris County and try to prevent them from occurring in other large counties in the state.

The bill eliminated the elections administrator’s office created by the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, which critics argued contributed to voting irregularities and mishaps in the 2020 and 2022 elections. The new law, which took effect in September, returned election oversight and administration to the county clerk and tax assessor-collector offices, as it was prior to the commissioner’s court creating a new office.