WASHINGTON – On the biggest day of voting since the coronavirus disrupted public life, Americans cast ballots in extraordinary circumstances on Tuesday, heading to the general elections during a national health and economic crisis and amid widespread protests and police installations that have disrupted communities across the country.
It created some unusual scenes during this most unusual election season.
In the country’s capital, for example, polling stations are open until 10 p.m. 20, while the city’s entire curfew begins at 2 p.m. (the police did not foresee arresting voters who broke the curfew).
And in Indianapolis, where 90 percent of the polling stations were closed, voters faced long lines outdoors in the 90-degree heat to vote for the remaining seats.
The vote also came amid a prolonged attack on President Trump’s electoral system, which has attacked false postal voting as biased against Democrats, threatened to withhold federal resources from states that sent votes to voters, and generally, without evidence, Democrats are looking to rig the election.
Voters in eight states and Washington, D.C., elected nominees to congressional and local offices while casting perfunctory primary ballots in the presidential race, which has long been established between Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
All locals who voted Tuesday had an exponentially sharp increase in absentee voting due to the pandemic, with some states receiving more than 20 times the absentee request four years ago. The increase in absentee voting also led to a new reality for an already irregular election night: some jurisdictions, overburdened by the number of postal polls, would be slow to report returns, which would result in a much fewer result for election night. Some competitions probably did not report until Wednesday at the earliest.
A race of interest in Indiana produced a winner: Republicans in the state’s fifth congressional district, which includes Indianapolis’s northern score and county in the north, chose Victoria Spartz, a self-funding Ukrainian-born state senator. She was one of 15 candidates to replace Representative Susan Brooks, a Republican who is retiring. The Democrats nominated Christina Hale, a member of the state House, for a race they believe will be competitive in November.
The most prominent race on Tuesday involved Representative Steve King of Iowa. Exiled by his party after giving an interview asking why white supremacy was considered offensive, Mr. King, a nine-run Republican, is the toughest primary in his career.
Elsewhere, Valerie Plame, the former C.I.A. agent out in what became one of the biggest scandals of the George W. Bush administration, sought the Democratic nomination for a New Mexico City seat. And the Iowa Democrats elected a nominee to face Senator Joni Ernst this fall.
The effects of current events were evident in Philadelphia, where voters were confronted with the dual realities of going to the polls in a city shaken by confrontations between police and protesters. Activists were also concerned about the presence of police and members of the National Guard near the polling stations, which they said could scare some voters.
“We see and know the effects of the police response to the protests in recent days,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. She cited the city’s convention center, where 18 polling stations had been condensed into one, as having a significant presence of the National Guard troops, “which is obviously a deterrent to voters.”
Voters reported waiting minutes of 90 minutes to two hours at Finley Recreation Center and Anna B. Day School in East Mount Airy, Philadelphia.
And counties across Pennsylvania were overburdened by a sharp increase in attendance at the AGM. On Monday night, Gov. ordered Tom Wolf six counties to continue counting polls that arrived after Election Day for up to seven days, as long as they were postmarked at 8 p.m.
Late Tuesday, a local judge decided that two more counties in Pennsylvania could continue counting votes received after Tuesday, as long as they were postmarked in time.
Voting by mail was also a problem in Indiana, where the state’s rapid expansion of the process created confusion and frustration, especially in Indianapolis. The city had set a noon deadline Tuesday to return post-in ballots, but personal ballot questions were open until 5 p.m.
And in Washington, ten minutes before the polls closed, D.C. reported The Board of Elections website has waiting times of at least one hour at all 20 of the city’s polling centers. Fourteen of the polling stations reported the wait for more than 90 minutes.
Some states with premieres on Tuesday saw sharp increases when tens of thousands of voters cast ballots from home for the first time.
In Iowa, more than 223,000 Democrats had returned absentee ballots for the state Senate primary by Tuesday, according to Paul Pate, the secretary of state. More than 176,000 Democrats voted in the state’s 2018 primary for governor.
Very few people in Iowa turned out to vote in person on Tuesday. By 2 p.m., only 56 people had voted at the Coralville Public Library, according to Zach Wahls, a Democratic state senator who helped organize young people to work on elections so that the state’s regular crop of older voting workers could avoid the pandemic risks. During primary 2018, 287 people voted in person at the library.
“We had a voter every ten minutes or so,” said Wahls, who killed time by reading “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. “It was very slow.”
In Montana, where both parties have competing primaries for the governor, more than 57 percent of registered voters returned by Tuesday, the highest turnout of all 2020 state primaries, according to the Vote at Home Institute, which promotes voting by mail.
All 56 Montana counties chose to lead the primary entirely by email following the IGC Steve Bullock, who himself is on the ballot in a slightly contested Democratic primary for the Senate, allowing counties to do so.
The night’s most prominent competition involved Mr. King, who has long been among the most aggressive opponents of illegal immigration in Congress and was once photographed with a Confederate flag on his desk. He was finally dismissed by his colleagues after commenting on white nationalism in a New York Times interview last year. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy abolished Mr. King carried out his committee assignments and left him with little power to influence the legislation.
Tuesday’s competition represented the toughest challenge in Mr. King’s career. Randy Feenstra, a state senator backed by Iowa’s Republican political establishment, raised three times as much as Mr. King while proclaiming himself an effective surrogate for Trump and conservative values.
Three other Republicans took part in the vote in Iowa’s fourth district, which covers the state’s northwest quadrant. The narrow field could benefit Mr. King; if no candidate gets at least 35 percent of the vote, the nomination will be decided by local party activists at a district convention, terrain that is likely to be more hospitable to Mr. King’s grassroots policy.
The winner of the Republican primary will face J.D. Scholten, a Democrat and former minor league baseball player who lost the 2018 election to Mr. King with only 10,000 votes. The Democrats think Scholten can beat Mr. King but would face much longer odds against Mr. Feenstra.
The Democrats in Iowa chose a candidate to face Ernst. Senate Democrats’ campaign arm endorsed Theresa Greenfield, a businesswoman who has proven to be a capable fundraiser and consolidated the support of the state’s Democratic political establishment. But Greenfield has three strong primary opponents, the strongest being Michael Frankel, a retired Navy vice admiral.
Elsewhere, Democrats in northern New Mexico will decide whether to hand over the nomination for a safe congressional seat to Miss Plame, the former C.I.A. agent, or to Teresa Leger Fernandez, a local attorney supported by the congressional Latin American Caucus.
And in Montana, Representative Greg Gianforte, a Republican who lost the 2016 governor’s race to Mr. Bullock. Mr Gianforte made national headlines in 2017 when he pleaded guilty offense of assault for having attacked a reporter. He is locked in a tough primary with Tim Fox, Montana’s attorney.
The winner meets either Mike Cooney, Mr. Bullock’s lieutenant governor, or Whitney Williams, a businesswoman supported by Emily’s List, an organization that supports Democratic women seeking office.