Ballot shortages, broken machines, long lines disenfranchise voters
Josh HarkinsonNov. 6, 2012 8:20 PM
This morning in Cape Coral, Florida, 30-year-old Angela DiFranciesco loaded her infant son into his stroller and wheeled him over to her local polling place. It was raining when she arrived and a three-hour line snaked around the building. She gave up on voting that morning and went home.
By this afternoon, DiFranciesco had found a babysitter and went back to cast her ballot. Problem was, now the wait to vote was five and a half hours. She gave up and went home. "I did not vote because I can't wait in line for five and a half hours," she told me over the phone this afternoon. "I have to give my son a bath."
"In the 1920s the right to vote was something that women stood for," the part-time interior designer added. "And now I can't even vote. I still don't get to exercise that right."
DiFranciesco is not alone. According to a database of voter complaints maintained by the Election Protection Coalition, many other Florida voters had to endure long lines today due to broken voting machines, shortages of ballots, or the inability of polling places to handle a crush of voters.
Voters reported long waits, up to seven hours in some cases, in a wide range of polling places, including in Orlando, Fort Meyers, Pine Island, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach, Palm Beach, Jacksonville, and parts of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. A voter in St. James City reported a line of a half-mile long.
In many cases the waits seemed due to broken voting machines or a shortage of ballot scanners. Just a few recent examples: At 3:30 p.m. a voter in Cape Coral reported a seven-hour wait due to a broken voting machine. At 3:40 p.m., a voter in Hernando reported a four-hour wait at a polling place that had only one operable ballot scanner. A few minutes later, a voter in Pompano Beach reported a three-hour line at a polling place where the sole scanner was working only intermittently. Poll workers were putting some ballot pages in a bag next to the machine.
About a half hour after Florida homemaker Renee Goldstein showed up at her polling place in Broward County's Pembroke Pines, elections officials ran out of ballots. She waited 2-and-a-half hours for new ones to arrive. During that time she noticed many people in line leaving. She says the polling place supervisor told her that he had requested more ballots at 11 a.m., but new ones did not arrive for another 7 hours. "Florida is really spelled Flori-DUH!," she told me. "We were just hoping that we were not going to be hanging chad city again."
The long lines in Florida, which began during early voting this weekend, result in part from a bill pushed through last year by Republican Gov. Rick Scott that drastically cut the state's historically generous early voting period.
Erika Eichelberger and Josh HarkinsonNov. 6, 2012 7:48 PM
Misleading flier handed out by a poll volunteer in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is quickly emerging as the national epicenter of voting chaos. In addition to epic lines, voting machine malfunctions, and what voting rights advocates describe as a possible "unreported purge of voters," Mother Jones has received numerous reports of voters being asked to show ID at the polls. In March, Pennsylvania passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, but last month a state judge blocked it from taking effect until 2013.
Nevertheless, voters across the state report encountering signs and election volunteers requesting identification. Even the polling place in Shaler where Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett voted this morning boasted a hand-scrawled sign informing voters to be prepared to show a photo ID, a poll worker at the precinct told Mother Jones.
Will this be the dirtiest election ever? Most people won't go to the polls until tomorrow, but reports of trickery aimed at would-be voters have have piled up over the past few days, angering and worrying civil rights advocates.
The latest bout of hand-wringing started on Friday, when Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, John Husted, announced a last minute-directive that could end up determining the presidential election. Husted put the burden on voters to correctly record the form of ID they gave to election officials when casting provisional ballots—recording the wrong information could invalidate the ballot. Some polls show a tight race in this crucial swing state.
Judging from recent experience, close presidential elections tend to coincide with problems at the polls. Remember the 2000 election's butterfly ballots and dangling chads? Or, four years later, the 10-hour lines in Knox County, Ohio? Though civil rights groups worry that history will again repeat itself this year, at least one thing will be different: what's in our pockets. Anybody with a smartphone can now shoot video of polling irregularities and upload it to the internet. But someone must still curate all of this citizen journalism, and that's where a group called Video the Vote comes in.
A member of a network of voting rights groups known as the Election Protection Coalition, Video the Vote wants anybody who notices voting problems to document the situation and bring the footage to its attention. "In an era of partisan voter purges, onerous ID requirements, and organized intimidation, it's not enough for citizens to just cast their ballots," says Matt Pascarella, Video the Vote's campaign director. In addition to collecting citizen uploads, he'll field a national network of his own videographers to target swing-state hotspots.
You might end up seeing some of these videos on the Mother Jones website; I'll be embedded with Video the Vote office during much of Election Day. In addition, Mother Jones is encouraging readers to report any poll problems, voter intimidation, and vote suppression attempts you might encounter via our short Report Your Voting Problem form (available below). We're tracking problems at our interactive map and mega-guide to election problems.
For more on how to work with Video the Vote, check out the group's promotional video:
You can help Mother Jones track voter suppression and poll problems around the country—report your problem using this short form:
The old truism, "As goes California, so goes the nation," might be due for a rewrite. From today's San Francisco Chronicle:
If you believe the polls…then Washington voters are poised to legalize two things Californians haven't: same-sex marriage and marijuana.
That's right, the home of the Castro and the Emerald Triangle is about to get upstaged by a state best known for its banana slugs. What happened?
Well, first off, all the crazy hippies got priced out of San Francisco and opened up yoga retreats, third-wave espresso shops, and organic farms in and around Seattle and Portland. I exaggerate only slightly.
Second, and more important, Washington state has fewer churchgoers than California, and especially fewer conservative ones. When the Catholic Church supported Prop. 8, California's gay marriage ban, it could count on its message being heard by the 29 percent of Californians who are Catholic. Catholics account for less than 12 percent of Washingtonians.
And then there's the reefer. California has lots of it, perhaps a surfeit. In 2008, majorities of voters in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, the so-called Emerald Triangle, rejected Prop 19, not because they didn't like tokers, but because they worried that legal weed would decrease margins for the area's pot farmers.
In the case of both ballot issues, Washington has learned from California's mistakes. Gay-rights advocates have framed marriage as a universal family value rather than just a civil right. And pot activists have neutralized opposition from law enforcement by including a provision that bans driving with high blood levels of THC, a rule absent from California's Prop. 19.
So has Washington stolen California's thunder? Maybe, but at least it's not raining down here.