Polling Woes Emerge in Key States; Watchdogs Report “Thousands” of Calls

Volunteers man a voter-protection hotline.Adam Serwer

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


People all over the country are having trouble exercising their right to vote, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights said Tuesday morning.

“We are seeing a manifestation of a new Jim Crow in America…I don’t think that’s an overstatement,” said Wade Henderson, who runs the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (a different group from the Lawyer’s Committee). “You are seeing lines longer than those in Baghdad or Kabul.”

To combat poll problems, the Lawyer’s Committee has teamed with half a dozen other civil rights and voting rights groups to operate an election protection hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Dozens of volunteers with legal backgrounds are taking calls from voters encountering obstacles to casting a ballot. The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights says it fielded thousands of calls Tuesday morning from voters who were turned away from the polls because they lacked photo ID, voters facing polling places with inadequate staff and equipment, and voters whose polling stations opening late.

Despite these ominous reports, Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice struck an optimistic note. “The system is working for the vast majority of Americans,” she said.

Voting problems are particularly acute in some key states, according to the Lawyer’s Committee’s Barbara Arnwine. In Pennsylvania, she said, voters are showing up to polling stations and seeing signs that say photo ID is required to vote, when state law says it’s only necessary for first-time voters. Some voters, Arnwine said, are being turned away by poll workers who mistakenly believe that all voters need government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.

“This is the fault of the Pennsylvania state government, we lay it at their foot that voters are having problems in that state,” Arnwine said at a press conference held Tuesday morning. “The state of Pennsylvania ought to be ashamed.” Pennsylvania passed a voter ID law, but the court blocked it from being enforced for this election. The judge ruled that poll workers could ask for ID, but voters will still be allowed to cast regular—rather than provisional—ballots even if they can’t provide one. A judge in Pennsylvania ordered Republicans outside a polling place in Allegheny to stop demanding ID from voters outside the polls.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state facing problems. The Lawyer’s Committee has received calls from Ohio saying that voting machines in Dayton, Toledo, and Cleveland are non-functional. Some voters in Ohio complained of regular ballots being placed in provisional ballot boxes—provisional ballots are less likely to be counted. At one polling station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Arnwine said, 300 voters were standing in line to vote because only one voting machine was working, while other polling stations were critically understaffed. The voting situation in New Jersey, which is still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, Arnwine said, was a “catastrophe.” 

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate