Millions of Americans turned out to vote in Tuesday’s razor-thin presidential election, facing long lines, strict new identification requirements and, in some areas, polling stations without power. Voters in key states such as Florida and Virginia waited in long lines hours after polls closed Tuesday night to cast ballots, even as politicians and their supporters urged them not to give up despite the long delays. Candidates turned to social media to encourage voters through the long wait. “#StayInLine #StayInLine #StayInLine” Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin tweeted. The three states allow voters who were in line when polls closed to cast ballots. One Florida elections office mistakenly told voters in robocalls that the election was today.
Even as President Barack Obama was about to give his victory speech early Wednesday, dozens of Florida voters waited in line waiting to cast ballots more than five hours after the polls officially closed. Thousands of people in Virginia, Tennessee and elsewhere also had to vote in overtime. Well into the 21st century, it strikes many people as indefensible that the U.S. can’t come up with a more streamlined and less chaotic election system. The president said as much at the very start of his speech. “I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time,” Obama said. “By the way, we have to fix that.” Easier said than done. There’s no single entity that sets the rules for voting in this country. Congress and the states enact overall election laws, but in most places it comes down to county or even city officials to actually run them. And those local systems are prone to problems. “We have 10,000 different systems. I wish there were only 50,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine and author of “The Voting Wars.”
They sued early and often. Voting-rights advocates, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and some political party officials, tackled potential electoral problems early this election year. Judges blocked stringent voter ID laws, lifted registration restrictions and rejected limits on early voting. As a result, Election Day 2012 escaped the legal dramas of the past. While some local skirmishes landed in court, no litigation clouded President Barack Obama’s victory on Tuesday over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But courtroom wars over the franchise are far from over.
Republicans have locked in at least 234 seats and Democrats have secured at least 190 winners in the House of Representatives. But with some ballots yet to be counted, 11 races remained too close to call, and at least seven appeared to be headed for recounts. Democrats appeared to have slight leads in at least eight races that were too close to call Wednesday morning, but a Republican campaign operative said almost all will be double-checked. One of the closest races was for California’s 7th congressional district, where Rep. Dan Lungren, the chairman of the House Committee on Administration, trailed Democrat Ami Bera by 184 votes with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
Voting Blogs: “We Have to Fix That”: Will Long Lines Be the Next Major Focus for Election Reform? | Election Academy
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election … whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that.” – President Obama, last night
Every national election seems to yield a storyline for election administration – and yesterday’s story, hands down, was the long lines that many voters faced at the polls. Just to be clear, when I say “long lines” I’m not talking about one-hour waits like the one I faced at my home polling place at lunchtime yesterday – I’m talking about epic waits, including those voters who, as the President was speaking just before 2am Eastern time, were still voting in Miami.
Florida: Still counting votes, Florida winds up not counting in 2012 presidential election | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
In the end, Florida didn’t actually matter at all. And that’s a good thing. Because even though President Obama got more than enough electoral votes to win reelection Tuesday, Florida is still officially up for grabs. No, there are no hanging chads or butterfly ballots this time. Not even any major glitches. And unlike 2000, there won’t be a recount where the future of the country hangs in the balance. But with record turnout – more than 70 percent – local elections supervisors are still trying to tally absentee and provisional ballots that could push the Florida outcome one way or the other. As of Wednesday afternoon, nine counties, including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, were still tallying those votes.
Florida: Absentee ballots, voting delays put harsh light on South Florida election | MiamiHerald.com
As Alfie Fernandez waited six hours to vote at the West Kendall Regional Library, she already knew TV networks had called the bitterly contested presidential race for Barack Obama. But she hung in there, anyway. “I felt my vote was important,” said Fernandez, a homemaker. “We have a history of messing up votes.” Fernandez finally got to vote after midnight Wednesday, but that didn’t stop South Florida from adding to its checkered Election Day history. Thousands of voters in Miami-Dade and, to a lesser extent, Broward counties endured exhausting lines, with some like Fernandez not casting ballots until after the national race had been settled. A day later, Florida remained the only state in the union not to declare its presidential winner, and several tight local elections still hung in the balance. Miami-Dade, among four counties still counting ballots, was sorting through a last-minute surge of 54,000 absentee ballots and didn’t expect to finish the final tally until Thursday. About 10,000 had yet to be tabulated.
Another presidential election has come and gone. Only not in Florida, where through much of Wednesday the swing state’s 29 electoral votes remained an unclaimed, though largely inconsequential, prize. One day after President Obama was re-elected, Florida, where he held a slim lead, was still too close to call — stuck in postelection mode once again as several counties tallied absentee ballots. Luckily, unlike the 2000 presidential contest, when the country’s attention hung on hanging chads, this year’s election made Florida’s choice an afterthought. “After this election, Florida is worse than a laughingstock,” Billy Corben, a Miami documentary filmmaker and avid election night Twitter user, said with a smile. “We’re now an irrelevant laughingstock.” The denouement, though, was fitting in an election season that lurched from flash fire to flash fire, beginning with a 2011 move by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature to reduce the number of early voting days and place 11 complex proposed amendments on the ballot.
Florida Rep. Allen West on Wednesday demanded a recount as his bid for reelection remained too close to call, with the tea party Republican trailing his Democratic opponent by fewer than 3,000 votes. Patrick Murphy has 160,328 votes, or 50.4 percent, to West’s 157,782 votes, or 49.6 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press, which has yet to call the race. West, who warned before the election of “nefarious actions” by Democrats, suggested a county election supervisor was trying to rig the election.
Displaced victims of the storm-ravaged New Jersey coastline faced a new challenge on Tuesday, as their attempts to vote in person, by email, and by fax failed. New Jersey, at the last minute and prompted by the displacement of residents from superstorm Sandy, was the first state to ever allow electronic voting for a significant portion of its population. Other states have allowed some electronic voting for military members or overseas residents in the past. The effort in New Jersey on Tuesday, however, showed the difficulties of maintaining an orderly and efficient election when phone lines and inboxes are overwhelmed with voter requests. “This is an unprecedented disaster,” Essex County clerk Chris Durkin told the Montclair Times. “People will be disenfranchised because of this unprecedented disaster.”
More than 200 new electronic voting machines in Nassau County jammed on Election Day, forcing voters to cast some 20,000 paper ballots and delaying final tabulations in some close races, election officials said. About 4 percent of the 463,000 Nassau voters who went to the polls Tuesday had to place paper ballots into emergency ballot boxes when the machines malfunctioned, said Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte. In 2010 and 2011, such breakdowns affected less than 1 percent of voters, he said. Similar problems were reported in New York City. Suffolk Republican Deputy Elections Commissioner Bill Ellis said the county experienced only minor issues “that were easily corrected.” Suffolk uses a different vendor than Nassau and the city.
With his hometown safety net of Lumberton ripped away from him by redistricting, incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre appears to have won a ninth term by a slim margin over Republican challenger David Rouzer. The new district for U.S. House District 7 includes Rouzer’s home base of Johnston County, Bladen County, Columbus County, Hoke County, New Hanover County and a part of Cumberland County. Bladen County went for McIntyre by a 10,839 to 5,409 margin.
After a long night of watching agonizingly close results roll in, U.S. Rep Rick Berg conceded North Dakota’s tightly contested U.S. Senate race to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp Wednesday afternoon. The decision headed off a potential recount that could have cost tens of thousands of dollars and dragged the contentious campaign out for another month.Speaking before the monthly luncheon gathering of the United Republican Committee of Cass County at Fargo’s Holiday Inn, Berg total a crowd of emotional supporters the margin of about 3,000 votes between him and Heitkamp was likely to hold up.
Virginia: Long voting lines blamed on high turnout, too-few poll workers and voting machines | The Washington Post
In the District, there were technical glitches with equipment at polling places. In Montgomery County, budget constraints led to about 1,000 fewer election judges than during the previous presidential election. But there’s no question about it: Some precincts in Northern Virginia held the dubious distinction of having the most brutally long lines for voters in the Washington region on Tuesday. In Prince William and Fairfax counties, hundreds waited for more than three hours — and long after polls were scheduled to close at 7 p.m. The problems were blamed on high voter turnout, unusually long ballots, a shortage of poll workers and a limited number of touch-screen machines.
Unofficial election night results show Jefferson and Harrison counties had the highest voter turnout for the 2012 presidential election among local counties in Ohio and West Virginia. Jefferson County also was the last of the local counties to complete its ballot count, with final numbers not being reported there until after 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. Election officials blamed a computer glitch and a high number of early absentee ballots for the delay, and Jefferson County Board of Elections members are expected to meet soon to discuss election night issues. Both Jefferson and Harrison counties had voter turnouts of 66 percent.