Watch­ers tell of long lines, glitches, mis­in­for­ma­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

Vot­ers at some Vir­ginia polls waited up to five hours to cast bal­lots, Florida vot­ers re­ceived phone calls from an elec­tion of­fi­cial telling them the wrong day to vote, and dozens of Repub­li­can poll work­ers in heav­ily Demo­cratic Philadel­phia needed a court or­der to get into elec­tion lo­ca­tions.

Those were just some of the re­ports of Elec­tion Day ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties that sur­faced Nov. 6 as lawyers for both par­ties and watch­dog groups mon­i­tored for un­usual ac­tiv­ity that could tilt the out­come of the most ex­pen­sive pres­i­den­tial race in U.S. his­tory.

In Philadel­phia, the New Black Pan­ther Party was back in elec­tion news af­ter a re­porter at Philadel­phia mag­a­zine snapped a pic­ture of a uni­formed mem­ber of the group in front of one polling place. In 2008, mem­bers of the group were at the cen­ter of a vot­ing-in­tim­i­da­tion com­plaint filed by the Ge­orge W. Bush Jus­tice Depart­ment but later dropped by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Across the coun­try, a non­par­ti­san elec­tion watch­dog group said it had re­ceived tens of thou­sands of com­plaints from vot­ers, many from storm-rav­aged parts of New Jersey where elec­tion of­fi­cials were scram­bling to help vot­ers dis­placed by Su­per­storm Sandy cast bal­lots.

Bar­bara R. Arn­wine, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights, which is part of the non­par­ti­san Elec­tion Pro­tec­tion Coali­tion, said many com­plaints in­volved “mas­sive con­fu­sion” over voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion rules in mul­ti­ple states as well as prob­lems with poorly pre­pared elec­tion of­fices.

Ms. Arn­wine said some vot­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia were told they needed gov­ern­ment iden­ti­fi­ca­tion when that was not, in fact, a re­quire­ment un­der the law.

She also said an elec­tion of­fi­cial in Pinel­las County, Fla., re­minded vot­ers in ill-timed robo-calls Tues­day to vote the next day, a day af­ter the elec­tions.

She also said there were wide­spread re­ports of long lines throughout Vir­ginia, in­clud­ing some lo­ca­tions where vot­ers waited up to five hours.

“This is not the first time we’ve seen this,” Ms. Arn­wine told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call.

Mean­while, the Jus­tice Depart­ment sent out more than 700 elec­tion mon­i­tors in 23 states as lawyers from both po­lit­i­cal par­ties and watch­dog groups looked for ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

In New Jersey, Repub­li­can Gov. Chris Christie al­lowed vot­ing by email or fax for res­i­dents in storm-rav­aged parts of the state, but not ev­ery­body re­ceived a bal­lot back af­ter send­ing in ap­pli­ca­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Ne­wark Star-Ledger.

The state chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU) filed an emer­gency pe­ti­tion ask­ing a judge to in­ter­vene be­cause of email vot­ing prob­lems across the state, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per.

“The coun­ties are so over­whelmed with these re­quests, they are not able to re­ply,” said Alexan­der Shalom, pol­icy coun­sel for the ACLU, to the news­pa­per. “Peo­ple have emailed in re­quests to get bal­lots, and they are not hear­ing back.”

In neigh­bor­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, Republicans said dozens of elec­tion work­ers were de­nied ac­cess to polling lo­ca­tions in Philadel­phia, where they were al­lowed ac­cess only af­ter a court or­der.

A print­ing mal­func­tion slowed in-per­son ab­sen­tee vot­ing Nov. 5 in Florida’s Palm Beach County, where some vot­ers re­ported wait­ing up to six hours to cast their bal­lots, ac­cord­ing to the coali­tion.

Florida’s Demo­cratic Party filed, then quickly set­tled, a law­suit over long early vot­ing lines at sev­eral polling lo­ca­tions.

In Ohio, out­side groups filed a court chal­lenge over a di­rec­tive from state Sec­re­tary of State Jon Husted say­ing early vot­ers should show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or write down the last four num­bers of their So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers.

In Vir­ginia, elec­tion of­fi­cials were warn­ing peo­ple to ig­nore any phone calls say­ing they could vote by phone.

The Vir­ginian-Pi­lot of Nor­folk re­ported that there were lines of more than 300 peo­ple at one polling place early in the day be­cause of vot­ing-ma­chine prob­lems.

Mean­while, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest re­gional se­cu­rity or­ga­ni­za­tion, sent 44 ob­servers to watch the gen­eral elec­tion at the re­quest of the U.S. gov­ern­ment. The ob­servers, part of the Of­fice for Demo­cratic In­sti­tu­tions and Hu­man Rights, came from 23 coun­tries.

Chuck Neubauer con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

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