After all that fuss, the system worked. There was no meltdown, no flurry of lawsuits, no statewide demands for a presidential recount.
Does that mean America's voting machinery is finally fixed? And why did it work so well amid massive turnout?
“Panic,” said Doug Lewis, who heads Election Center, a nonprofit that works with voting officials across the country. “Everyone involved in conducting elections was just on pins and needles the entire year. Overplanning really helped.”
There were extra precautions in nearly every precinct. In some areas, helicopters stood by to deliver touch-screen machines if extras were needed. Ballot orders were also increased.
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The Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that oversees voting systems and distributes money to improve them, recommended that local jurisdictions recruit twice as many poll workers as in previous elections.
“Election officials went to extraordinary lengths to have not only a Plan A, but a Plan B and a Plan C,” Lewis said.
In the end, there were a few hiccups – some machines were slow to start up, and voter rolls were missing some names. But for the most part, the system functioned well.
“The voters were enthusiastic and just glad to be in the process,” Lewis said. “That attitude really helps. The day goes by much better.”
All of which is good news, but no reason to get complacent, voting activists said.
“America had its game face on,” said Doug Chapin, director of electionline.org at the Pew Center for the States. “Election officials and poll workers and voters were laser-focused on what they needed to do. They were willing to stand in line. They knew about early voting. They were vigilant about hiring extra poll workers.”
Yet, Chapin said, “we need to do more. We didn't have a close election, and that took some of the pressure off.”
Also alleviating pressure Tuesday was newly popular early voting, which allowed people to mail in ballots or vote in person days before the election. At least one-third of the nation's general-election ballots were cast that way, according to early estimates.
But the process had its downside. Because so many voters wanted to cast early ballots, many people stood or sat or played cards in lines that lasted hours.