People vote during the US presidential election n the Coney
Island section of Brooklyn, New York. REUTERS/Brendan
U.S. voters have complained about erratic implementation
of voter ID laws, while long lines and makeshift polling sites
in storm-hit New York and New Jersey have added to confusion in
a bitterly contested presidential election.
Watchdog groups reported complaints from people turned away
from polls because they did not have identification in states
like Pennsylvania, where ID was not required.
In swing states Virginia and Florida, long lines led to
numerous complaints and fears that people would give up
without casting a ballot, while large numbers of people in
Ohio reported being forced to vote by provisional ballot.
It was unclear what impact the voting irregularities might
have on an election that caps a close presidential campaign
between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican
challenger Mitt Romney.
Throughout the day, voters in Pennsylvania, which saw court
battles over controversial voter ID requirements, reported
getting conflicting messages over whether an identification
was required to vote.
A federal judge had ruled the new voter ID law could not be
implemented this election because there was not enough time
to ensure all registered voters had proper identification.
But poll workers were still requesting voter IDs, and reports
surfaced of people being turned away if they could not
produce one, witnesses and watchdog groups reported.
"Poll workers have been poorly and wrongfully trained, and
they are standing there and sitting there and requiring
people to show ID, and sending people home if they don't have
the ID," said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
The Lawyers' Committee, which helps run an Election
Protection hot line that collects reports of problems at the
polls, said there were signs outside some voting areas in
parts of Pennsylvania falsely telling people they needed an
Pennsylvania's ID rules were among a raft of new voting laws
passed mostly by Republican-led legislatures in dozens of
states since 2011. The courts have thrown out the harshest of
the new laws, or at least ordered delayed implementation.
Republicans had their own complaints in Pennsylvania. The
party got a court order to reinstate 75 Republican election
officials in Philadelphia who allegedly were prohibited from
entering polling places.
Election Protection had received more than 80,000 calls from
people reporting various problems. Many of the calls came
from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
In Ohio, many people complained they had been forced to vote
by provisional ballot after their names did not appear on
Ohio regularly has the highest number of provisional ballots
each presidential election, according to the Brennan Center
for Justice at New York University's Law School. This year,
numbers are likely to exceed 200,000 provision ballots, which
will not be counted until at least November 17.
LINES SNAKE AROUND THE BLOCK
Long lines at polls in many states prompted concerns that
some voters would walk away without casting ballots. Lengthy
waits to vote were reported in Florida, Virginia and Ohio,
all key swing states, as well as New Jersey and New York,
states walloped a week ago by superstorm Sandy.
Virginia's State Board of Elections sent out a tweet urging
voters waiting in line before the polls closed to stay to
"If you were in line at 7pm and are eligible to vote, you
will be able to cast a ballot, regardless of how long it
takes!" the board said in the tweet.
In a sign of the importance of the Florida vote, Obama
tweeted: "Reminder: If you're waiting to vote in Florida,
#StayInLine! As long as you were in line when polls closed,
you can still vote."
Voters reported hours-long lines throughout the day in
Florida, where the Republican administration cut the number
of early voting days to eight from 14.
About 12,000 voters in the Clearwater area of Florida
received automated telephone calls on today telling them they
had until the end of "tomorrow" to vote.
Once officials realised the problem, they called voters to
tell them the message had been sent out a day late and the
election was really today.
College students voting away from home also ran into problems
in Florida after the new election law for the first time
prohibited making address changes on the spot.
"Right now, it's annoying me," said Kristen Wiley, 20, a
student from Boca Raton who said she had requested, but not
received, an absentee ballot from Palm Beach County. She was
waiting in line for a provisional ballot, knowing it would
not count unless her eligibility is later verified.
Multiple problems were reported in New Jersey and New York,
where Sandy crashed ashore eight days ago.
"There's just one word to describe the experience in New
Jersey, and that is a catastrophe," Arnwine told reporters.
She said that computer servers had crashed, voters were being
asked for ID that was not required, some polling places
opened late and multiple locations did not have ballots.