What's Going on at the Polls? A Round-Up of Voting Problems

News & Politics

Confusion over polling place locations in hurricane-hit areas of New York and New Jersey. Long lines and hours-long waits in cities in Ohio and Virginia cities. Poll worker confusion in Pennsylvania over what voter ID is and isn’t required. Partisan poll watchers making voters nervous in Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  And plenty of people who thought they were registered to vote only to discover that their voter file was out of date.

These are some of the trends that emerged from reviewing the first thousand-plus calls to the Eection Protection Voter Hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) in the first wave of voting on Tuesday morning—through 1:30 PM EST. (The ongoing reports can be found here.) Most calls were about problems that could be solved.

The worriesome calls catalogue what could go wrong and apparently is going wrong. But it is hard to tell whether these are a handful of isolated instances or a reflection of a larger trend. What follows are the reports as recorded by Election Protection volunteers—who in most cases are lawyers volunteering for Election Day.

1. Long Lines/Voting Machine Shortages

• Richmond, Virginia: “Poll worker called to report issue with lack of voting booths and long lines at polling place.”

• Norfolk, Virginia:Voter is frustrated because she has been standing in line to vote for two hours. The polling place does not have enough machines to accommodate the number of people that they knew would be voting today. She thinks this is a voter intimidation problem.”  

• Columbus, Ohio: “Poll monitor reported that the lines at Driving Park were long, that there too few poll workers, and that the line for A-D was much longer than the others.”  

• Dayton, Ohio: “1. Not enough parking 2. Doorway partially blocked, door is closed, hallway james 3. 4 or 5 empty machines; poll worker doesn't know how to operate machines. 4. Poll workers slow & poorly trained. 5. Extremely long line of people -- people getting anxious and angry.”  

• Akron, Ohio: “The polling location at the Lawton Community Center (1225 Lawton St) at the corner of Hartford and Lawton has broken machines. People who had been waiting in line since 6:30am were still in line at 11am. They were told there were no regular paper ballots and some filled out…”

• Pine Island, Florida: “A community of retirees with lines more than 3hrs long because there is only one scanner available. Ppl are voting but because they're trying to scan their ballots (which are 4 pages long), the lines are longer than they need to be and voters are getting discouraged.”

• Oakpark, Michigan: “Very long lines, voter has been waiting two hours with many peiople in front of her, broken machines, only one is available.”

2. Voter Registration/Voter Impersonation

• Prince Edward, Virginia: “Her mother went to the polling location with her voter ID. The mother was told that she already voted by absentee ballot. That is false. Her mother never voted. The polling location will not let her vote.”  

• Unidentified location, Virginia: “Voter was sent a registration card for polling place near her school, but she was not on rolls at polling location. She cast a provisional ballot. She later looked up her registration and determined that she was registered at her home (not school).”  

3. Voter Intimidation/Confusion

• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “Report of problems with intimidation reported on Fox News and websites in Philadelphia, in Wards 32, Div 13; Ward 33, Div. 14; Ward 56, Div.1; Ward 56, Div 22; Ward 32, Div. 28; ward 12; Div. 17; wWrd 39; Div.1; Ward 24, Div. 9; Ward 18, Div. 25…” 

• Huntington Pennsylvania: “Electioneering up to the door of the polling place. He is wearing a black leather jacket with a Romney/Ryan sticker. It’s right next to a college. Looking to intimidate students and first time voters.”  

• Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “Caller reports a person wearing an Election Protection badge - never checked in even though he was asked to do. He is sitting outside door talking about the election in a "creepy" way.” 

• Detroit, Wayne Michigan: Precinct delegate reports a third party telling voters to vote in a manner that invalidates their ballots (voting both party line and for president separately).”  

• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “Voter reported that she and her entire family believe machines not working properly as voted straight ticket and light did not appear beside name of presidential candidate. Also reported that son was advised to hit presidential candidate button separately AND also straight ticket.”  

• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “Voters getting text messages stating that if they vote straight tickey "democratic", their votes for President Obama will not be counted. WE HAVE RECEIVED MULTIPLE COMPLAINTS ABOUT THIS ISSUE FROM VARIOUS LOCATIONS.”  

• New Iberia, Louisiana: “Previously called regarding poll worker who was making derogatory remarks about President Obama in District 7.”  

4. Voter ID Confusion

• Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: “Voter was asked for identification and she refused to show it because it is not yet required. They let other people in line ahead of her but she was eventually allowed to vote on the machine.”  

• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “3rd voter in line ward 58 district 32 poll worker demanded photo id. voter told them not required, poll worker said if he refused he would write in book that voter refused to show id and would not allow voter to vote voter getting calls of other people having same...”  

5. Poll Worker Error

• Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “Only ballot machine in the precienct. They did not give out paper ballots.They are just turning people away.”  

• Dayton, Ohio: “Not enough parking 2. Doorway partially blocked, door is closed, hallway james 3. 4 or 5 empty machines; poll worker doesn't know how to operate machines. 4. Poll workers slow & poorly trained. 5. Extremely long line of people -- people getting anxious and angry.  

• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “People having issues with voting. There are three rooms with different registration rolls in them. People are walking into one room and are not aware there are others. If their name is not on the roles in the first one, just given paper ballot and not told to check the ...”

• Jefferson City, Missouri: “Caller is hearing a lot of complaints about polling workers being confused about rules. His wife had her blue voting card and did not want to give them her DL because she knew all she needed was her voting card; she had to talk to SEVEN officials before they would ...”  

• Boynton Beach, Florida: She voted at the 7188 precinct, and as she was voting, chaos broke out. She is in Boynton Beach. The precinct is the Forest Park Elementary School, 1201 Southwest 3rd Street. The electronic voting machine broke down, so they began taking paper ballots, but the machine where the paper ballots ...  

6. Race-based disparities

• Progress Village, Florida: “965 (primarily african-american district) - 972 (primarily white district) 965 line moving very slowly & 972 is moving quickly - clear racial disparities in the line.”  

• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “Voter reporting that this polling location is not clearly marked and attendance is very poor. Only two people inside working at this location. New polling location for this minority neighborhood.” 

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