Americans who weren’t among the 100 million early and mail-in voters faced pandemic fears, long lines, and tight security across the nation on one of the most historically important elections in American history.
At one voting station in New York City, the line had stretched for blocks and blocks by 7 a.m. in stark comparison to previous elections when the queue was mostly indoors. “Voters wore masks and the mood was somber,” one The Daily Beast staffer reported from her polling spot. That was until an adult woman burst from the polling station, her hands raised in triumph as she shouted jubilantly, “I’ve just voted for the first time in my life!” The crowd applauded.
A second woman announced that it was her second time voting in a presidential election, but had an entirely different view, telling the waiting voters, “Either way, we’re screwed.”
Across the country, fears of aggression by vigilantes encouraged to watch the polls by President Donald Trump led to heightened security, including military vehicles and tanks in some states like Alabama.
Fears that protests could erupt over the outcome also led store owners in Miami to use hurricane-preparedness measures to cover their storefronts. After massive early-voting turnout across Miami, few voters lined up in Coral Gables, Pinecrest, and South Miami.
“With the amount of people that have already voted, I don’t expect long lines,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo mused while voting in Hialeah on Tuesday morning.
In Michigan, a battleground state that has been the home of recent political strife, officials are already worried about voter intimidation and long lines discouraging voters from getting to the polls.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday tweeted that her office received reports of “multiple robocalls going to Flint residents that, due to long lines, they should vote tomorrow.” Last month, conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged for allegedly orchestrating a series of robocalls aimed at scaring thousands of Detroit voters away from using mail-in ballots.
“Obviously this is FALSE and an effort to suppress the vote. No long lines and today is the last day to vote. Don’t believe the lies! Have your voice heard!” Nessel added.
Michigan Secretary of State Jake Rollow, however, told reporters that voting is going “smoothly” so far, and “about a dozen” of the state’s 2,000 reserve poll workers were deployed early Tuesday morning to help locations in Pontiac and Grand Rapids.
Officials in Nebraska are also warning voters to disregard a similar anonymous robocall urging people to “stay safe and stay home,” noting that polls are open on Tuesday and locations are taking every precaution.
Some polling stations ran into technical problems before the first voters could cast their ballots, including some where voting materials failed to arrive on time. In Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, three election districts remained closed more than an hour after they were scheduled to open, CNN reports.
“At this time, there are three election districts which have not opened,” Amie Downs, communications director for the county told CNN. “Elections has staff at each site and is creating a new suitcase with materials so that they can open.”
Some polling sites in Georgia—a key battleground state—also experienced some technical difficulties Tuesday morning. In at least seven polling locations in Morgan County, polling officials had to turn to emergency paper ballots. Technical issues also briefly caused delays in at least one polling precinct in Fulton County and Spalding County.
Jeanne Dufort, the local Democratic Party’s chief poll watcher, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the issue in Morgan County was linked to ballot access cards, which are used to activate voting touchscreens.
“There was clearly some issue countywide with encoding those cards,” Dufort said, adding that the technical glitch has not yet caused significant delays, but did give poll managers extra work.
In Missouri, an 85-year-old woman crossing a street to cast her vote in the Affton Community Center was struck by a car and killed. St. Louis County Police Department told The Daily Beast that the woman, who has not been identified, was hit just after 6 a.m. by a 26-year-old driver and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Some states that have mask mandates would not let voters without face coverings inside. Other spots, like Nashua, New Hampshire, set up a separate lane and voting area for those who were refusing to cover their faces.
One poll worker stationed in Brooklyn told The Daily Beast that residents began lining up at 4 a.m., waiting hours to cast their ballots in winter jackets and masks. Another poll worker in Astoria, Queens, noted the queue to vote inside PS 85 was at least four blocks long.
“Everyone is masked-up, tired, annoyed, and wanting to vote I would say,” said the Brooklyn polling worker, a lawyer tasked with ensuring everyone is socially distancing amid the pandemic. “I would recommend people get here early. It’s only going to get worse, and this is the biggest election of our lives.”