Widespread problems mar 2012 election for many voters
In Pennsylvania, two major issues included confusion over the state’s new voter identification law, and some registered voters who were denied the right to vote, according to a report by a watchdog group. Confusion lingered after a judge blocked the state from implementing a voter identification law because there was not enough time to ensure all registered voters had proper identification.
But that did not stop some poll workers from asking voters to show photo IDs. Election officials were still allowed to ask for IDs, but they could not require voters to do so to cast a ballot.
The Election Protection Coalition received hundreds of calls from Pennsylvania voters who were told they were not registered to vote, even though the coalition was able to confirm their registration on state websites. The coalition later learned that these voters in some cases were offered provisional ballots.
Complications also stemmed from an electronic machine in Perry County, Pa., when a voter attempted to select Barack Obama and the machine insisted on choosing Mitt Romney. The voter recorded video of the malfunctioning machine and posted it on YouTube.
“The machine was taken out of service and was recalibrated and returned to service within an hour and worked fine the rest of the day,” Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said.
In Connecticut, poll workers in Hamden, New Haven and a handful of other locations asked voters for identification when it was not required.
“When reports were filed, we got in touch with local election officials and reminded them what the ID requirements were in Connecticut, and reminded moderators that there are various forms of ID that could be used, and even if somebody doesn’t have ID, it shouldn’t prevent them from voting,” said Av Harris, spokesman for the secretary of state.
Harris said long lines were an issue. Some voters stood in line for more than 90 minutes, and even though polls closed at 8 p.m., voters were still in line at 9:30 p.m.
Obama addressed the issue of long lines during his victory speech Tuesday night.
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that,” he said.
New Jersey and New York were still suffering from the effects of super storm Sandy. New Jersey servers and fax machines were overloaded by email ballots, and some voters did not receive their email ballots. Polls in New York City opened late, and some ran out of ballots after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, signed an executive order to give all New Yorkers the ability to vote at polls anywhere in the state with an affidavit ballot.
Virginia and D.C. voters also suffered with long lines. In Fairfax County and Chesapeake, polling locations were understaffed and had malfunctioning machines. In East Hampton, a polling site that typically gets 400 voters, more than 6,000 students and first-time voters from Hampton University showed up, causing numerous problems, questions and concerns about the voting process.
In Florida, thousands of voters across Pinellas County were told they had an extra day to vote. Voters were called Tuesday morning and an automated message said, falsely, that the deadline to cast ballots was Wednesday night. The deadline was Tuesday night.
Linda Walburn, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, said more than 12,500 calls were sent out because of a problem with computer software. The office called everyone back to provide correct information.
In Broward County, voters reported that only one machine was available in a predominately African-American precinct, causing extremely long lines. Predominately white precincts however, had two machines and shorter lines. In Pembroke Pines, two polling places ran out of ballots.
“It is worth pointing out how close we’ve come again to another meltdown” Rick Hasen said. Hasen is a University of California-Irvine election-law expert.
On Tuesday, Hasen tweeted: “long lines, machine breakdowns, fights at the polls. Unfortunately this is the new normal for Election Day.”
Reach SHFWire reporter Kamrel Eppinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.