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The Voting Apocalypse Everyone Was Worried About Hasn't Happened

Election officials across the US told BuzzFeed News there have been isolated reports of broken machines and systems going down but that, by and large, the vote this year has gone smoothly so far.

Posted on November 8, 2016, at 9:00 p.m. ET

Hannah Mckay / Reuters

NEW YORK — Despite gloom-and-doom predictions that this year's elections would be hacked and/or rigged, local election officials told BuzzFeed News Tuesday evening that this year's vote has gone smoothly, so far.

The only issue, they said, was what appeared to be record turnout across several states, leading to unusually long lines.

"There are isolated reports of issues, with specific machines. What we are seeing are a lot of places dealing with a heavy volume of turnout, trying to brace for how to deal with lines building up," said Kay Stimson, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the organization to which each state reports issues it might be having during election day. "We aren't seeing anything widespread, we aren't seeing any widespread issues."

Counties in New York, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina reported issues at polling stations that ranged from a handful of machines malfunctioning to systems briefly going down and needing to be rebooted. In North Carolina, laptops used to confirm voter registrations malfunctioned in 57 precincts in Durham County, leaving local officials to use pen and paper to register voters. The machines caused widespread delays, which led to the North Carolina State Board of Elections granting a one-hour extension for the polls to stay open.

In Colorado, the statewide voter database went down for 29 minutes, between 2:47 p.m. to 3:16 p.m. MT. The outage did not create any widespread issue and its cause is being investigated, though Secretary of State Wayne Williams stated that it did not appear that the system disruption was due to anything external.

But the most dramatic fears — that hackers would take down the entire voting apparatus — were not coming true.

Russia's role in hacking — and leaking — emails from the Democratic National Convention and staff close to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, led to speculation that they might try to wreck havoc on election day in the US. Elections experts expressed concern that fake news sites might try and spread stories of voter fraud and hacks as a way of churning chaos among already fearful voters.

On Tuesday, a number of stories suggesting voter fraud and machine rigging made waves. One, which included a video of a voting machine in Philadelphia refusing to allow a man to select Trump, was mentioned by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as an example of vote rigging. That machine, however, was fixed, according to the man who posted the video. He told BuzzFeed News that he was able to cast his vote for Trump.

Other stories, suggesting that voting machines owned and operated by billionaire George Soros would be rigged to vote for Hillary, had already been widely discredited, but resurfaced Tuesday. (For the record, the machines made by Smartmatic are not used in the US, and Soros has no role in that company.)

Cybersecurity companies, which posted videos showing how easy it would be to hack a machine, also admitted that many of those hacks would require direct physical access to machines, and that hundreds of hackers would be necessary to influence the vote in each country.

Ahead of the elections, officials involved in securing machines and polling stations told BuzzFeed News that it was incredibly difficult to hack or rig and election in the US. On Tuesday, they said they were still on the lookout for any irregularities, but that as far as they could tell, America was able to safely and securely vote.

  • Picture of Sheera Frenkel

    Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F

    Contact Sheera Frenkel at sheera.frenkel@buzzfeed.com.

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