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Timothy L. O'Brien

Election Day Could Be Brutal. Or Maybe Not.

State and local polling officials are braced for the unexpected on Nov. 3. They’re used to it.

Smooth operation.

Smooth operation.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Almost every year on Election Day, someone, somewhere in America intentionally or accidentally rams their car into a polling place. It happens with such regularity that it’s become a dark joke among public officials and other insiders who monitor elections — evidence that crazy and sometimes violent things happen when people gather to vote in the U.S.

Last March, a guy backed his car into a St. Louis church, jumped out and began screaming obscenities at workers in the makeshift polling station there. He managed to pour an unidentified liquid from a big milk jug onto the floor, voting machines and at least one elderly woman before tossing chairs and tables around the room. After he was arrested, poll workers relocated their operation to a nearby public school, and voting continued.