Your Morning Dose of Voting Snafus

By Sarah Kliff

Early morning voting is well underway on the East Coast—and so are the voting snafus. As of 10 a.m. Eastern, the Election Protection Hotline had received 27,000 calls from voters who have had trouble at the polls. We don't know whether there will be another Florida or Ohio this year, but at a mid-morning Election Protection Briefing, the Hotline's legal committee summed up the problem spots in progress.  Here's what the voting experts are watching:

Virginia and Pennsylvania – voters from these two battlegrounds have, so far, reported the highest number of problems, so these are the two states that the Election Protection Hotline folks are most concerned about. In Virginia, Voting Rights Project Director Jon Greenbaum reports a wide variety of issues: polls opening late, machines breaking down, ballot shortages. There's no geographic center; the problems seem to be scattered across the state. "These problems are continuing to flow in," says Greenbaum. "We got a number of these calls very early, but even in the last hour we're getting continuing problems from Virginia."  The Voting Rights Project is in talks with government officials in Richmond to address these problems.

Over in the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have had a number of broken voting machines. That's been leading to long lines and even some giving up.  In Pennsylvania, there's a statewide requirement for paper ballots, so things are a bit smoother–although some polling places didn't have emergency ballots and lines began to grow.

Florida: There are reports from about two dozen polling locations across the Sunshine State – mainly in key I-4 Corridor county Hillsborough, home of Tampa– of broken optical scan machines. No surprise there: when the state required all counties to switch to optical scan ballots, voting experts foresaw major problems as many would have to adjust to a new technology in an election with overwhelming turnout.

Taking a step back, Greenbaum says the problems are about what they expected—not catastrophic, but not particularly smooth. "The infrastructure of our election isn't equipped to handle this kind of turnout," says Greenbaum. "Unfortunately, this is the same story you'll hear from us in 2010 and 2012."

The Voting Protection Hotline will host another briefing at 3:30 p.m. today, so stay tuned for an update around then.

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