Election 2008

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Tom Gannam/AP

Voters Facing Serious Glitches

November 04, 2008 06:50 PM
by Emily Coakley
Across the country, unnerving errors at the polls, both mechanical and human, are piling up.

Minor Problems Reported Nationwide

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Reports of voting problems are gaining severity throughout the country.

In the St. Louis area voters have reported waiting up to six hours to cast their ballots. Dick Bauer, the St. Louis County board of elections assistant director, blamed the long wait on record high voter turnout and "a lengthy ballot." Reports of understaffing at polling locations have also surfaced, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, voters in Florida, Virginia and Missouri who support Barack Obama have reported receiving "bogus text messages or e-mail" suggesting they wait until Wednesday to vote because of "long delays" at the polls.

But Pennsylvania seems to be bearing the brunt of the glitches, both strange and serious. At a Philadelphia polling location, a male voter in "a black outfit with a beret and holding a nightstick" was asked to leave by police, reports CNN. At another Philadelphia polling place, a similarly-dressed man was allowed to stay, however.

And "in at least a dozen" polling places, mostly in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Election Protection (EP) has reported various problems, including broken voting machines and illegal distribution of campaign materials. In addition, according to NPR, voters across Pennsylvania have not received their absentee ballots, prompting them to head to the polls. NPR said EP has called the glitches "major obstacles that could thwart thousands of voters."

Earlier today, CNN reported that some voting machines had broken down in New Jersey and Virginia.

In North Carolina, the rain had led to some damp ballots that optical scanners couldn’t read. Election officials fixed that by asking election workers to give voters a paper towel before handing them a ballot, CNN reported.

Voters in 13 Michigan cities had complained before noon today, reported the Detroit Free Press. In Grosse Pointe Woods, for example, two machines were malfunctioning at a polling place, but voting never stopped.

A number of human errors were making things difficult at a few precincts throughout the country as well.

In Denver, election officials said one precinct didn’t have its entire voter registration list, which led to some people getting a provisional ballot from election headquarters or simply waiting around for the error to be remedied. According to The Rocky Mountain News, the problem was resolved in “20 minutes” when a new copy was sent to the precinct.
The late arrival of an election chief delayed one North Carolina precinct’s opening. In Kansas City, one precinct had the wrong voter registration books. And a voter in one Cleveland suburb told CNN that a precinct was handing out only the second page of ballots—not the page with the presidential race.

And despite millions of people voting early, long lines persisted at many precincts.

Related Topics: Analyzing and protecting America’s voting infrastructure

A report issued a few weeks ago suggested that Election Day could see widespread voting machine breakdowns and other problems, findingDulcinea reported.

Another feature from findingDulcinea explores what has been done to safely update voting equipment.

In 2000, the presidential election results were delayed because of a close race, confusing ballots and recount problems. Read about how the 2000 election has changed voting today and what lessons have been learned.
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