As of noon, we’ve seen no major efforts to prevent voting, though several other problems have cropped up.
We’ve seen a multitude reports of problems getting organized in New York and New Jersey — long lines, not enough machines, and wrong poll books. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says it’s going to seek a court order that would allow displaced residents to simply write their votes on a blank piece of paper and submit them as absentee ballots. The problem, the ACLU says, is that so many requests are pouring in for e-mail and fax ballots that the state is very slow to respond to the demand. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says many voters find that the computers simply crash when they try to e-mail their ballots back.
Philadelphia is living up to its past of bare knuckles at the polling places. The political parties have been battling in local courts about whether their representatives can enter the polling places. Republicans persuaded a judge to let their more than 100 inspectors back in after local Democrats sought to exclude them. This is a regular occurrence, says one election official.
In early October, a state court judge declined to find Pennsylvania’s tough new voter ID law unconstitutional. But he said the state was having so much trouble getting the new ID’s into the hands of voters that the law could not go into effect for this year’s election. Even so, he said poll workers could ASK voters to show a photo ID under the new law, but nonetheless had to allow voters to cast a ballot even if they didn’t have a photo ID. State elections officials say they’ve received a dozen or so reports that poll workers are improperly requiring a photo ID in order to vote.
A Republican state court judge has ordered local election officials to cover up a mural on the wall of a Philadelphia school serving as a polling place. The mural is a wall-sized painting of President Obama, with the words “hope” and “change,” as well as what appears to be the Obama-Biden campaign logo. Judge Milton Younge, Jr of the Court of Common Pleas ordered that the mural be covered “in its entirety” for the rest of today. He acted in response to a lawsuit filed by state Republicans.
We’ve been unable to confirm claims that a small number of representatives of the New Black Panther Party showed up at some predominately African-American precincts in Philadelphia. A similar presence four years ago led to a lawsuit and a controversy over how the Justice Department handled it. We’re also checking, but cannot confirm, reports that ex-Navy seals were going to the same precincts to be a counter-presence.
In Florida, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office confirms that it mistakenly sent over 12,000 automatic calls this morning, informing voters they had until 7 p.m. Wednesday to cast their votes. ”We had scheduled them for Monday, and any remaining calls that didn’t go out starting going out today,” a spokesperson for the office, Nancy Whitlock, told NBC News. The calls were meant to engage voters who had requested but not yet filed absentee ballots. ”The general election is tomorrow,” the call announced. “If you want to vote and return your mail ballot, please take it to any ballot drop-off site by 7 p.m. tomorrow.” Whitlock said a glitch in the county’s vendor phone system caused the calls to be held overnight. She learned of the error when confused voters called her office this morning. A new automatic call went out with an hour, Whitlock said, telling voters “today is election day.” Whitlock said the vendor successfully placed 27,900 calls Monday before the glitch occurred.
An enlightening video comes from a polling place in Millerstown borough in central Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. A voter using a touch screen machine repeatedly tries to vote for Obama, but the machine registers a vote for Romney. He informed election officials of the problem, and the machine was taken out of service.
One of the things we’ve been watching for today is the influence of a group called True the Vote, a Texas-based organization with Tea Party roots concerned about the potential for voter fraud.
Its leaders said it might have up to one million volunteers at polling places nationwide. Civil rights groups feared they might concentrate themselves in predominately African-American precincts and aggressively challenge voters.
But we’ve heard virtually no complaints today about True the Vote.
The organization’s Texas headquarters told NBC’s Mike Isikoff that it trained 700,000 volunteers but has no way of knowing how many actually turned out today.