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Problems at the polls



Published: Wed, November 7, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Long waiting lines, machine glitches mar voting in US

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Voters in key states such as Florida and Virginia waited in long lines hours after polls closed Tuesday night to cast ballots, even as politicians and their supporters urged them not to give up despite the long delays.

High turnout rather than glitches or problems appeared to be the cause of the long lines, but there were plenty of other problems around the country. Many were in Pennsylvania, including a confrontation involving Republican inspectors over access to some polls and a voting machine that lit up for Republican Mitt Romney even when a voter pressed the button for President Barack Obama.

One Florida elections office mistakenly told voters in robocalls the election would be Wednesday.

The Election Protection coalition of civil rights and voting access groups said they had gotten more than 80,000 complaints and questions on a toll-free voter protection hotline.

Aside from the lines and scattered other scattered problems with voter access and machine failures, there didn’t appear to be any wholesale disenfranchisement of voters, few tense confrontations among poll monitors and no major instances of election fraud.

“Despite the shameful attempts to suppress voting, voters are standing up,” said Bob Edgar, president and chief executive of Common Cause.

Still, Election Day was far from glitch-free. And voters faced a whole different set of challenges in parts of New York and New Jersey ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.

In Philadelphia, the Republican Party said 75 legally credentialed voting inspectors were blocked from polling places in the heavily Democratic city, prompting the GOP to obtain a court order providing them access. Local prosecutors were also looking into the reports. Democratic Party officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Also in Pennsylvania, Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said the voting machine in the central part of the state that switched a person’s vote from Obama to Romney has been recalibrated and is back in service. Video of what Ruman called a “momentary glitch” was widely viewed on YouTube.

Pennsylvania was also the scene of confusion over voter ID requirements. The state this year enacted a new photo ID requirement but it was put on hold for Tuesday’s election by a judge amid concern many voters would not be able to comply in time.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause in Pennsylvania, said election workers in many places were demanding IDs even though they are not required. It was unclear, however, just how many voters may have been turned away or discouraged.

Also in Philadelphia, a judge ordered a mural of Obama covered up after a Republican election worker snapped a picture of it at a school polling place, according to a statement from the Republican Party.

The battleground state of Ohio was the scene of yet another court battle, this one involving a lawsuit claiming voting software installed by the state could allow manipulation of ballots by people not connected to official election boards. A judge, however, flatly dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop use of the software.

Also in Ohio, officials in Franklin County barred the tea-party linked True the Vote group from monitoring polling places because applications to do so weren’t filed properly.

Catherine Engelbrecht, president of the Houston-based group, claimed the Ohio Democratic Party was behind pressure that led several local Ohio candidates to withdraw their permission for the group’s members to act as election observers.

Elsewhere, the Election Protection coalition reported problems with ballot scanners in Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo; late-opening polling places in minority neighborhoods in Galveston, Texas; and some precincts in the Tampa, Fla., area where voters were redirected to another polling place where they must cast a provisional ballot.


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