Election Watchers Report Problems Across Virginia
The Election Protection Coalition, a non-partisan election protection group, is reporting problems with electronic voting machines and optical scanners in parts of Virginia, most related to the same issues the Virginia Board of Elections identified early in the morning.
At the Math and Science Center in Henrico County, for example, five electronic voting machines broke down, and voters waited for as long as four hours for the machines to be brought online. The coalition reported that there were no paper ballots available, so voters had to tough it out. In Galax, sandwiched between West Virginia and North Carolina in the far western part of the state, machines reportedly were not bringing up the choices in the state Senate race, and some voters apparently cast ballots and left before the problem was discovered.
"There has been a wide range of problems, ranging from machines not booting up to machines not bringing up the full slate of choices," said Karen Newman, of the Fair Elections Legal Network. "There have been problems with optical scan machines, apparently from getting wet. In Chesterfield, there were a number of problems with marked ballots being improperly fed through the machine. And there's some human error as well."
The coalition has been lobbying Virginia to extend its voting hours until 9 p.m. to accomodate voters affected by the problems, but so far to no avail. All voters who are in line by 7 p.m. will have the chance to vote, and advocates are urging voters to stay in line, even if the lines are hours long.
"Long lines were expected in this election, but widespread equipment problems have thrown fuel on the fire in Virginia," said Barbara Arnwine, of Election Protection. "We're calling on officials to take the commonsense approach and make every effort to keep the polls open two hours later so all eligible voters can cast their ballots."
Susannah Goodman from Common Cause said there was simply a lack of planning by the State Board of Elections by ignoring calls to have more paper ballots available and to standardize voting around the state. "Voters are bearing the burden of the lack of leadership from the State Board of Elections," she said.
My colleague Matthew Mosk, who has been closely covering the campaign and is on "dirty tricks" patrol today, just reported that the Campaign Legal Center has noted problems in Fairfax County, at the Glenmar Park School, Clermone Elementary School, Reston Christ Lutheran Church and Holmes Elementary School.
Gerry Hebert, of the Campaign Legal Center, told us that there also have been problems in Newport News, Virginia Beach, Mechanicsville, Lynchburg and other locations around the state. In Accomack, on the Eastern Shore, persistent witnesses said that the presidential ballot never showed up at the fire hall, and the three times they went to vote the presidency screen didn't show up on the machine, Hebert told Mosk.
So far, the problems appear to be relatively isolated on a day expected to set records for voter turnout. We'll hear from the State Board of Elections again in just a few minutes, and I'll be sure to pass along their thoughts after the board's 1 p.m. news conference.
November 4, 2008; 12:40 PM ET
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