Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Glitches, Errors and Lines. Oh My!
November 7, 2006 · NPR's Pam Fessler has been watching for polling issues all day and, surprise, surprise, it's not so bad.

"There were lots of voting place problems around the country, but no major meltdowns -- with the possible exception of Denver, where power outages and computer crashes led to long lines and one- to two-hour delays. Democrats tried to keep the polls there open longer, but a judge denied their request. But lots of other polling places around the country did get extended hours because of scattered problems with voting machines. That includes Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where more than 40 precincts had trouble getting up and running this morning. Many voters reported being asked to show a photo ID, even if it wasn't required. That included the chief election official of Missouri, Robin Carnahan, who kept trying to explain to the election worker that she did NOT have to show ID, but the poll worker insisted."

Of course, even minor glitches can cause stress. In Kentucky, a poll worker was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault for allegedly choking a voter. It apparently started as a dispute between the two over marking the ballot.

And in Pennsylvania, a man who reportedly believed Republicans were conspiring to steal today's election entered an Allentown polling site, signed in and proceeded to smash the screen of one of the electronic voting machines with a metal cat paperweight.-- Robert Smith


Problems at the Polls

In Lebanon County, Pa., voting glitches forced people to cast paper ballots. Lebanon, Lancaster and Luzerne counties all extended poll hours as a result of voting problems. Some districts in Indiana also may extend voting hours.

"There have been problems, unfortunately, across the commonwealth in many counties," said Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. "We had at least over a dozen complaints of people who noticed that when they voted for one candidate it registered for the other, and in some cases had to vote several times in order to get it to work."

Santorum said his campaign is preparing reports about malfunctioning machines.

"It's certainly not good news. ... Congress passed a law requiring all those electronic voting and unfortunately, we're having a whole wrath of problems," Santorum said. "we've got problems here and we were afraid of that with the new voting system in place in such an important election, but we're going to try to work through it."

A Colorado state judge denied a motion by Democrats to keep polls open for an extra two hours there, ruling there was no irreparable injury to voters who were forced to wait in long lines Tuesday morning when voting machine problems occurred.

Problems also were reported in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin, among other states.

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections, said there have been reports of "minor hiccups" — such as one polling station that opened 10 minutes late — but "nothing major."

In New Jersey, voters in at least seven jurisdictions attempting to vote for Kean and found their machines "locked" for Menendez, according to GOP Committee attorney Mark Sheridan, who called it a "disturbing and developing trend" emerging at the polls.

Sheridan said Republicans are trying to figure out if this is a result of computer error or malfeasance on the part of poll workers. He said it would be too much of a coincidence for anything other than "fraud."

But David Wald, a spokesman for the state attorney general, said observers at four districts in Paterson, N.J., watched polls for more than an hour and saw no instances of pre-selection. They were continuing to observe, he said.

In Kentucky, a county clerk had to draw up new paper ballots after one school board race was left off some ballots. In Richmond, Va., one voter was advised to come back later after a poll worker estimated the wait could be two hours.

In Indiana, a court order is allowing polls in one county to stay open until 9 p.m. local time after an an apparent programming error in the cards needed to start the voting booths kept voters from casting ballots in 75 precincts. In the state's largest county, paper ballots had to be used in more than 100 precincts after poll workers said they were having trouble setting up some voting machines.

In Shelby County, Tenn., some electronic ballots, called Smartcards disappeared. Local officials launched an investigation, but election officials are downplaying the effect, saying it's not likely fraud, but rather a mistake. They said even if the ballots are found they can't be used again.

Both parties appeared to be gearing up their attorneys for any possible legal challenges.

"It has always sort of troubled me because poll workers sometimes are very poorly trained, they may be volunteers, they may be people who have never done this before. So I think it's very constructive to have lawyers there because some of these people who are charged with telling people what their rights are don't really know the law as well as they should," said Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky.


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