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Voter Suppression on Election Day in Key Swing States | The Nation

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Ari Berman

Ari Berman

 On American politics and policy.

Voter Suppression on Election Day in Key Swing States

This afternoon the 1-866-Our-Vote Election Protection Coalition did another press briefing about voting problems nationwide on Election Day. The major issues are in the key swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, in addition to New Jersey, which is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and has extended voting until Friday at 5 pm. See the links for more information on voting reports in each state.

Let’s start with Pennsylvania. As I reported earlier, poll workers in the state are telling a number of voters they wrongly need ID to cast a ballot, and voters in Bucks and Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs have been wrongly turned away from the polls. Signs in Bucks, Butler and Erie counties also wrongly told voters they needed photo ID to vote.

In addition, scores of longtime voters in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have been told they are not on the voter rolls and must cast a provisional ballot. Such ballots will not be counted until up to seven days after the election. Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer said the city had received as many provisional ballot requests as of 3 pm today as they had for all of 2008. Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, said voters were not on the rolls due to administrative errors or an unannounced voter purge. First-time student voters have also been facing major problems in the state. “At least several hundred first-time voters going to polls near or on college campuses in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are reporting apparently being left off the rolls at the locations on their voting cards and having to vote by provisional ballot,” according to US PIRG. “Additionally, the confusion is creating particularly long lines, further endangering turn out for voters in those precincts.”

A proliferation of provisional ballots is also a major problem in Ohio. In major counties like Hamilton (Cincinnati), voters are wrongly being told that the address on their voter ID must match their address on the voter rolls or else they must cast a provisional ballot. A proliferation of provisional ballots could determine the outcome and/or delay the results of the election in the Buckeye State, thanks to an eleventh-hour directive by Ohio GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted. In addition, there have been reports of voting machines breaking down in cities like Cleveland and Akron. Students are also being targeted in Ohio. According to Evan Gildenblatt, president of the student body at Kent State University: “Hundreds of students across state have been forced to file provisional ballots, have been intimidated and are being turned away for bogus ID req’s. As student body prez of the second-largest state school, I’m appalled.”

Florida has experienced long lines, power outages and broken voting machines. In Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, 12,000 voters received a mistaken robocall from the supervisor of elections stating that Election Day was tomorrow. This seems to have an honest mistake and has since been corrected.

Finally, there have been long lines throughout Virginia, particularly in Democratic areas in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads. Five-hour lines were reported in Chesapeake.

As of 5 pm, the Election Protection Coalition had received 71,849 calls to its 1-866-Our-Vote hotline.

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