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.

(Continued from Page 3)

Another problem state: Virginia. The Advancement Project, on behalf of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Tim Kaine for "unconstitutional allocation of polling place resources." The two groups were seeking: a reallocation of existing machines and poll workers so that these resources are equitably distributed across precincts, the option to vote by paper ballot in the event of long lines (i.e., more than a 45-minute wait), and extended voting hours. But the outcome of this lawsuit is just the opposite of the Pennsylvania case discussed above: A Federal Court in Richmond ruled against the Advancement Project.

The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has launched a "poll watching" campaign. According to President and Founder Chris Simcox, the organization is urging volunteers across the country to stand 75 to 100 feet outside polling stations with video cameras and to record any "suspicious activity" like "busloads of voters." Volunteers will be documenting license plates as a "deterrence effect against people voting illegally." The Hispanic National Bar Association has sent out a press release stating that the Minuteman campaign is "nothing more and nothing less than an effort to intimidate Hispanics and other minority voters on Election Day." (Thanks to Tracey Meares for the tip.)

E-mail us at slate.votingtrouble@gmail.com if you have something to report. … 7:15 a.m.

Monday, Nov. 3

About one-third of the electorate voted early this year in a gambit to avoid procedural snafus and encountered—you guessed it—lots of procedural snafus. Here's a brief account of problems experienced by early voters.

Technological Glitches

  • In Atlanta, four of five terminals connecting a polling site to the secretary of state's voter database  malfunctioned because "the state was having an Internet connectivity issue." It took about an hour and a half to fix the problem.
  • Voters in North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia using iVotronic touch screens reported "flipping"—wherein their choices were switched from Barack Obama to John McCain or vice versa. With help from poll workers, voters were able to correct their ballots.
  • In Park City, Utah, voters had to cast provisional ballots because of a computer glitch that made it appear as though they had already voted.
  • The summary page on Knox County, Tenn., voting machines displayed only the first three letters of the candidate's first name. Votes for Barack Obama were recorded as "BAR"—leading some to believe, mistakenly, that they'd selected Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate.
  • Absentee-ballot distribution in Fairfax, Va., was frozen by an e-mail blitz from a group that was trying to express concern about the adequacy of the state's voting system.
  • Oprah Winfrey had trouble using a touch screen, which initially didn't record her presidential vote.

Long Lines


  • Wait times averaged two to four hours at the 17 early-voting sites in Broward County, Fla. Last Monday, one site closed at 10:30, three hours late, to accommodate demand.
  • Four-to-five-hour waits were reported in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday—the last day for early voting in that state.
  • In Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, voters waited outside a polling site for an hour and then inside the building for another two to three hours.
  • The line to vote at the Cleveland County Election Board in Norman, Okla., was two blocks long on Friday.
  • Last Monday, voters in the Atlanta metro area waited in line for six to eight hours. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the average wait went down to about two hours.

Intimidation and Malfeasance