Where should the polls stay open?

Analysis of breaking news events.
Nov. 4 2008 8:50 PM

Where Should the Polls Stay Open?

The question of the evening.

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Reader Philip Sandifer alerts us to a livejournal entry by a College of Wooster student, which reads, in part: "So the law says that anyone with an Ohio driver's license can use it to vote, even if the address is different from the one they are registered at. Poll workers at St. Mary's (the largest polling location for the college) are REFUSING to do this. … A lot of college kids are being disenfranchised. The out-of-state kids had to request a utility bill from the dean as a proof of residence. They're set. The Ohio kids didn't know they needed this letter. The dean's office is closing at 5, refuses to remain open past that."

The Columbus Dispatch also quotes a reader whose registration was challenged due to a mismatch problem. He had to return home to retrieve proof of residence before casting a ballot. … 5 p.m.

Third-party supporters, I've got just the polling station for you! At Pleasant Township Hall in Knox County, Ohio, a touch-screen machine would only register votes for Ralph Nader. Somewhere out there, a computer programmer thinks Nader never got enough credit for the Ford Pinto recall. … 3:35 p.m.

Fox News reported earlier that two Black Panthers stood at the door of a Philadelphia polling place, one of them holding a nightstick, and made voters feel intimidated. One called the police, and the guy with the nightstick was escorted away. Here's the transcript; here's a clear picture of the two men. The story checks out. It's also an isolated incident. … 3:20 p.m.

Update, 4:22 p.m.: An Obama volunteer denies that the Panthers were being intimidating. She says they were "guarding the polling place, a nursing home on Fairmont Avenue in north Philadelphia" but that "one was an officially designated poll watcher" and the other was a friend of his.

It looks as if Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are the states to watch this year. But, especially compared with 2000 and 2004, the problems are slight so far—mostly long lines and minor computer glitches.

Florida: Via Ourvotelive.org, voters showed up to the polls in Tallahassee only to find … no ballots! A rehab center for elderly residents never received absentee ballots. And reports of broken optical-scanning machines are pouring in from Tallahassee, Tampa, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County.

Michigan: Wired reported yesterday that optical scanners manufactured by Election Systems & Software failed pre-election tests—producing different results for the same ballots. Today, there are major machine malfunctions all across the state. According to the Detroit Free Press, complaints from voters in 13 different cities—including Detroit, Grosse Pointe Woods, and Battle Creek—had already come in by 11 a.m.

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Pennsylvania: Republican poll watchers have been tossed out of a half-dozen polling stations in Philadelphia. Also in Philadelphia, machines in multiple polling places are out of order or never arrived.

Virginia: Widespread machine malfunctions are leading to inordinately long lines—including a seven-hour wait in the 32nd precinct.