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State Board of Elections Shoots Down Allegations

At an afternoon news update in Richmond, the State Board of Elections worked to address ongoing rumors about some voting problems that have been reported by the political parties and independent voting rights groups.

First, Susan Pollard, the board's spokesperson, told reporters that the board has confirmed reports that one Chesapeake precinct had as many as 1,000 people standing in line, accounting for 50 percent of that precinct's voters.

Second, Pollard said the Board is looking into reports that at a Hampton polling place, ballots are being placed in a duffel bag. Those allegations came from the McCain campaign in Virginia, after an authorized representative of the Republican Party at the Jones Magnet School in Hampton witnessed regular paper ballots being stored in an
open, unsecured duffel bag accessible to passers by.

According to the Mccain campaign, the person "also witnessed provisional ballots and spoiled ballots laid out on an unsecured table accessible to passers by. These unsecured ballots are not being watched by an election official to ensure no tampering occurs."

Pollard said there was, in fact, a duffel bag. She also said that "the bag was used to transport ballots to the polls in plain view of elections officials. The bag is secured and an approved container."

Third, the Board stomped on allegations that there may be thousands of voters who are being turned away from Virginia polls inappropriately, an allegation raised in voter protection group e-mails: "Any reports stating that thousands of voters are being turned away illegally are inaccurate," Pollard said.

Fourth, Pollard sought to debunk rumors of deceptive practices around Virginia Tech, where some groups alleged that students were being turned away or encouraged not to vote at all. She said that there were large volumes of traffic going into one of the Blacksburg polling places, causing there to be limited parking available. "In order to prevent traffic hazards and to ensure voters an opportunity to cast their vote, the local election officials have arranged for satellite parking to accommodate the overflow."

Fifth (yes, it's a laundry list), the Board wanted to make clear that while there were problems with optical scanners this morning due to wet ballots, those voters were not given provisional ballots but were actually offered official paper ballots, and that all of those ballots will be counted.

Sixth, Pollard said that all localities are required by Virginia law to send absentee ballots that arrive after the November 4th, 7 p.m. deadline to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for official storage. No absentee ballots will be thrown away or destroyed, she said. The Associated Press reported that a federal judge ordered election officials in Virginia to preserve late-arriving absentee ballots, including ones from military personnel overseas, that Republican Sen. John McCain's campaign claims should be counted.

By Josh White  |  November 4, 2008; 5:25 PM ET
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