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.

Voters line up outside an early-voting location November 2, 2008 in Columbus, Ohio.
Ohio residents wait to vote

The presidential election is coming to a close in the time-honored way—with widespread anxiety about voter fraud, voter suppression, mechanical glitches, and long lines at the polls. Here at Slate, we're keeping track of the outrages unfolding nationwide. Check this page often for the latest news.

Tuesday, Nov. 4

Problems with provisional ballots in Ohio. No surprise there. Whether or not it matters tonight, the state has work to do on this. ... 8:50 p.m.

Via the Advancement Project, four problems in Virginia—which we identified earlier as a possible problem state. 1) Long lines in Chesapeake, 2) lots of people (unclear exactly how many) who registered at the DMV didn't make it onto the rolls, 3) some students (again, unclear how many) had to use provisional ballots in the Norfolk area, and 4) wet ballots in Hampton Roads (where it rained this morning) are causing optical-scanning-machine jams. … 7 p.m.

Via 866ourvote.org, we hear that dozens of voters in St. Louis submitted change-of-address forms well before Election Day that have not been processed. A local judge is refusing to hear requests for "form approval," so it's likely these voters will be disenfranchised. Of course, "dozens of voters" is small potatoes in comparison with previous election cycles, but Missouri is a battleground state, and it's possible this snafu is indicative of larger problems statewide. … 6:56 p.m.

In Virginia, there's an early bid to keep the polls open late. (They are scheduled to close at 7 p.m. there.) If lines persist—and why wouldn't they?—this will be the first of many such efforts. Many states basically provide for keeping the polls open for everyone who gets into line before the official closing time. But advocacy groups rush to court and ask judges to stop the polls from closing anyway as an insurance policy.

The other issue to look out for as the evening wears on: wrangling over the counting of provisional ballots—especially in Ohio, but also in other states like Virginia, where the McCain campaign has sued about the tabulation of absentee ballots. (The judge in that case just wrote a note that suggests he might keep this open until Nov. 10. Good grief.) If state-by-state contests aren't close, these battles won't matter. If they are—and there are congressional and state races to consider—the lawyers will be busy.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, voters in a suburb north of St. Louis report waiting six and half hours. Ugh.


And in Indiana, the Marion County Election Board unanimously removed two Republican poll workers for improperly challenging ballots. … 5:28 p.m.

By law, Ohioans must show identification to vote, like a driver's license or a military ID. It doesn't matter if the address on the license is different from the address on the registration form—you should still be able to vote. But we're hearing scattered reports that Ohio poll workers haven't been trained properly and are giving would-be voters with mismatched information a hard time, in some cases requiring them to cast provisional ballots.