Another dispatch from Emma. One thing to keep in mind. Today somewhere around 130 million people are going to cast votes. If there’s, say, a 1% error rate, which would be tremendously low, that still means 1.3 million instances nationwide of problems. That is not at all to suggest that the way we run elections is anything but a disgrace, but just to keep in mind that even thousands of instances of screw-ups, long waits, etc does not necessarily (stress necessarily) indicate anything at all systematic, other than logistical failures. Andrew Gumbel is also following this story, right here n Virginia.

WASHINGTON, DC — From Nation intern Emma Dumain, comes a seconddispatch from the Election Protection command center:

WASHINGTON-DC Stresses are running high inside the Election Protection command center as it nears its double-digit hours of the day. There are some technical glitches, as to be expected with such a high volume of calls coming in (1-866-OUR-VOTE) and heavy traffic on the website (

But tensions are also spreading regarding the most recent string ofreports coming in from Florida which elaborate on the vaguer reportsfrom earlier in the day, specifically the issue of malfunctioning votingmachines. Apparently, in a number of polling sites throughout thestate, the official ballot boxes are overflowing after some opticalscanners broke down, causing a back-up in the ability to processcompleted ballots.

“Important announcement,” Scott Lyons, the voter hotline commanderbellowed from the front of the room. “If you get any calls aboutballots being stuffed into things, anything–extra boxes, duffel bags,anything–get that information to us immediately.”

Lyons’ weary sarcasm was met with a ripple of giggles, but the kind thatpeople make when the most immediate impulse would be to scream.

“The ballot box is the paper trial of records,” Lyons explained. “Ifthere needs to be a recount, and the ballots aren’t in an officialcontainer or properly accounted for, it opens up opportunities forirregularity.”

He added that this follow-up on an earlier hint of a ballot overflowrepresents the “ebb and flow” of different problems throughout theday. Starting at 6-8 a.m., for instance, the common trends throughoutFlorida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio–from where the majority of thecalls into the D.C. command center are coming–were that voting siteswere not opening on time, and that machines were not operating properly.

There is basis for suspicions of deliberate flaws in the system, such asthe case in which dozens of voters in Florida only received word by mailwithin the past couple of days that their registrations were invalidbecause they forgot to check a certain box. However, Jonah Goldman, thedirector of the National Campaign for Fair Elections, a program withinthe Laywers’ Committeee for Civil Rights Under Law, emphasized his viewthat the infrastructure and general ill-preparedness was the eye of thestorm, as it were.

“People are always looking for conspiracy,” Goldman said, “butincompetence is just as bad.”