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Many Voters Confront Long Lines

November 6, 2012   ·   Wall Street Journal   ·  Source Article

Complaints about long lines, faulty machines and poll-watcher challenges rolled in steadily Tuesday, with each side trying to ensure all their supporters' votes counted in the tight presidential race.

Less than an hour after many polls opened on the East Coast, phone lines at the Election Protection Coalition headquarters in Washington, were ringing constantly.

By 11 a.m., the operation had received 35,000 calls, including from New Jersey and New York, where servers had crashed in several counties, making it difficult to cast electronic ballots, the center's officials said.

Dozens of congressional races also are expected to be tight, including 10 competitive U.S. Senate races that will determine which party controls the chamber next year.

Voters and volunteers Tuesday morning seemed to know what was at stake, especially in battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Soon after a polling station at the North Miami Public Library opened its doors at 7:00 a.m., a line was snaking around the block. Some voters waited as long as three hours to cast ballots. By 10:30 a.m., the line had shrunk significantly, shortening wait times to less than half an hour.

Democratic and Republican poll watchers stood outside the precinct and occasionally clashed. A Democratic poll watcher accused a Republican lawyer of intimidating voters inside the polling station, while the Republican told him he was standing too close to the precinct entrance.

In Philadelphia, Republicans went to court and won a judge's order to allow Republican poll watchers at polling stations, after party officials said they received 110 reports from precincts where required minority-party poll monitors were ejected.

Voters were turning out early in Pittsburgh, a heavily Democratic city that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney planned to visit Tuesday, as he attempts to carry Pennsylvania and neighboring Ohio. There were no disruptions at one Pittsburgh polling site with heavy turnout, although some voters said they were concerned that Pennsylvania's voter-identification law could cause confusion. A Pennsylvania judge blocked the law from taking effect in time for November's election, agreeing with opponents who said that requiring an ID could keep certain groups of people from voting.

Two high-school students working on a senior project stood outside the polling site and asked people if they had been asked to show ID. Most voters said they hadn't and those who had said they refused to show it.

Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said there was continuing confusion in Pennsylvania over the need for photo identification. The Election Protection Coalition hotline received many complaints Tuesday morning that voters were still receiving mailings from election officials saying such ID would be required.

Long lines were reported in many places. At Ellis Elementary School in Manassas, Va., lines in the morning stretched out to the sidewalk. At Stonewall Jackson High School, also in Manassas, some people went away without voting Tuesday morning due to long lines, said Amy Myers, who works with Organizing for America and was standing outside the polling site telling voters she could help with problems.

"We had some people say they waited an hour and 15 minutes," Ms. Myers said. "And lots of people walk away because they can't wait that long." After 9 a.m., the lines appeared to be moving more swiftly, she said.

Ms. Johnson-Blanco said she was watching reports from Texas and Florida that some voters were turned away because their signatures didn't match what was on file at election offices. "Poll workers don't have the expertise to conduct signature analysis," she said.