Voters in Florida were still waiting to cast their ballots more than six hours after polls closed on Election Day, registered voters in Ohio were told they were not on voter rolls and new voter ID laws in Pennsylvania led to confusion at voting places. Election Day problems have become commonplace in the United States in recent general elections. But a comment by President Barack Obama offered a glimmer of hope that problems that have dogged voting for years might finally be addressed.
There was confusion about a voter ID law in Pennsylvania, widespread use of provisional ballots in Ohio and problems for college students voting in Florida on Election Day. But the systematic, widespread voter disenfranchisement that some voting rights advocates had feared didn’t come to fruition in 2012. Instead, advocates said the largest issue for voters on Election Day was the problem of long lines at overwhelmed polling places, including locations in several key swing states like Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and Florida. President Barack Obama even raised the issue in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, thanking voters who “waited in line for a very long time” and adding “we have to fix that.”
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election,” President Obama said in his acceptance speech Tuesday, “whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time.” At the mention of long waits, Obama paused. “By the way, we have to fix that.” Election Day saw news story after news story about interminable lines at polling stations. In some areas, people waited for two hours, three hours, or more. To many observers, it seemed ludicrous that a country as advanced and as wealthy as the United States can’t figure out how to hold a decent election. So what was the problem? Why do long lines persist? And is there anything Obama and Congress can do to make our voting system more efficient? I put this question to a couple of experts, and got back five broad suggestions for ways that both the states and even the federal government could improve our voting infrastructure and reduce long waits.
Florida: Obama, others push for an overhaul of Florida’s elections system after long waits | Bradenton Herald
The lines to vote in Florida were so long that President Barack Obama took time at the start of his re-election speech early Wednesday morning to point it out. “By the way, we need to fix that,” Obama said. It’s not as if we didn’t know that. As in 2000, Florida gained national attention on Election Day for holding up the final tally of votes in a tight presidential race. Long lines, tardy results, apologetic elections officials — this is how it’s done in the Sunshine State. “I’m hesitant to say what went wrong,” said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor and elections expert at Ohio State University. “But the president is right, we do need to fix this. In the long run, this will dampen turnout if it takes this long to vote.” When asked about Obama’s comments, Gov. Rick Scott said he was open to suggestions.
Florida’s struggle to quickly report a winner of the 2012 presidential election has again made it the target of criticism that brought to mind the 2000 recount. The presidency doesn’t hang in the ballot, as it did 12 years ago during the recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore, but that hasn’t saved the Sunshine State from scrutiny. NBC’s Chuck Todd discusses how Florida may be used as a model for the rest of the country to show how changes in demographics, particularly an influx of Hispanic voters in key counties, affected the outcome of the election. On Thursday in Florida, absentee ballots are still being counted in three populous counties. (Under state law, counties have until Saturday to report their total vote, including absentee ballots.)
Florida is again having problems determining the winner of its presidential vote. But its difficulties are entirely different from the ones that kept the nation in suspense for more than a month back in 2000. “It was just a convergence of things that were an embarrassment to Florida,” says Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Some of the snafus stem from changes in election law that were passed last year — but which were the subject of lawsuits until just weeks before the election. “We’d been in court for months,” MacManus says.
Massachusetts: Itsy bitsy spider goes up the voting machine, causes malfunction, delays count in Massachusetts town | The Washington Post
It wasn’t hanging chads or voter fraud that delayed the vote count in one Massachusetts town — it was a spider. Rehoboth Town Clerk Kathleen Conti says one of the town’s aging voting machines malfunctioned Tuesday morning. She called a technician, who said a spider web apparently prevented the machine’s scanner from counting ballots. Conti tells The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro (http://bit.ly/XmzmSj ) all Rehoboth’s voting machines received preventive maintenance a month ago.
On Tuesday, Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have required voters to show photo ID at the polls. The result marked the end of nearly two years of fierce partisan debate, including sharply divided legislative votes, a gubernatorial veto, and several court cases about the wisdom of voter ID, the language of the ballot amendment and the potential impact of voter ID on the state’s election system. What, then, is the significance of the defeat of voter ID?
On Tuesday, Minnesota voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution to require voters to present a photo ID at the polls in order to be able to vote. This was the latest in a string of pushback victories for voting rights, and the final verdict was squarely in the hands of voters. As recently as five months ago, the amendment appeared positioned for easy passage. Public Policy Polling’s first survey in June asking voters if they supported or opposed a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, 58 percent supported the amendment and only 34 percent opposed it.
Five months after the Supreme Court threw out Montana’s 1912 campaign finance law, the state voted overwhelmingly to throw out the justices’ reasoning. Montana’s Initiative 166, which passed with 75% of the vote, disputes the high court’s constitutional analysis and directs the state’s congressional delegation to propose a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s 2010 Citizens United campaign finance ruling. What’s more, the state elected as governor Democrat Steve Bullock, who championed the state’s campaign-finance restrictions in his previous job as state attorney general.
Two Republicans in separate states were taken into police custody during the past week for allegedly attempting to test how easy it would be to commit voter fraud. In Nevada, 56-year-old Roxanne Rubin, a Republican, was arrested on Nov. 2 for allegedly trying to vote twice, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The newspaper quoted a report by an investigator with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office that said Rubin “was unhappy with the process; specifically in that her identification was not checked.”
A day after New York City voters encountered waits lasting hours and chaos at many poll sites, elected officials and government watchdog groups agreed that the city’s election process needed major change. But there was little consensus about what to do or how it could be done. “It’s time for a comprehensive scrutiny of the way we handle elections in this city and state,” said Jerry H. Goldfeder, one of the state’s most prominent election lawyers. “The system needs radical reform,” he added. Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council and a leading contender for mayor should she run next year, said that the city’s election process needed a “major soup-to-nuts overhaul” and that the Council planned to lobby Albany to enact changes.
Ohio: Federal Judge on Ohio’s Ballot Order: ‘Democracy Dies in the Dark’ | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic
On the day after Election Day, just hours after Mitt Romney had conceded the presidential race to President Obama, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted sent his public lawyers into a federal courtroom in Columbus to try to disenfranchise his fellow citizens whose provisional ballots were not properly completed by poll workers. Here is the transcript for the extraordinary hearing held Wedneday by U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley. It’s worth a read to get a sense both of the judge’s dismay at Ohio’s position and Ohio’s utter lack of a reasonable defense for Husted’s voter-suppression efforts.
In an unprecedented twist to an already knotted election, state elections officials today will conduct a court-ordered recount of all Richland County ballots cast Tuesday after a lawsuit in a House race prompted state investigators to seize voting records. Amid a swirl of legal action Thursday, the chairwoman of the Richland County Election Commission said she is sorry for the mess that created long waits at polling places, some stretching to seven hours and causing some voters to leave without casting a ballot. Read the restraining order petition and the order
Juggling a series of calls and texts during a 20-minute period, Mohammad Qasem locked his eyes on his mobile phone as a tweet is composed by committee. The energetic Mr Qasem became the general coordinator on Tuesday for citizens who wants Kuwaitis to boycott the country’s election on December 1. The group’s Twitter account, run by a dozen or so people, gained 20,000 followers in its first 24 hours. “It has to be right,” he said, “because I’m sure this tweet will be all over Kuwait.”
Sierra Leone: Election Fever Sweeps Sierra Leone and There Are Some Serious Matters to Debate | Huffington Post OK
In Sierra Leone, politics means a good excuse for a party. There is no space for the stuffiness usually associated with the subject. With one candidate using the slogan ‘When the music’s nice, play it twice’, you know there will be some fun. Over the past fortnight, each party has had its chance to parade through the town, dressed head to toe in their colours chanting slogans of support for their candidate. In one rally, the candidate threw party coloured footballs into the adoring crowd. Everywhere you go, people are talking (and dancing) politics and with just 10 days until the country goes to the polls, the race is too close to call.
Turks and Caicos Islands: Hague: TCI Elections Mark “Return to Democratic Government” | Caribbean Journal
Turks and Caicos Islanders will head to the polls on Friday, a “significant step” on the path to democracy, according to British Foreign Secretary William Hague. The elections come more than three years after the British installed an Interim Administration in the territory. That was the result of a finding by the Auld Report of systematic corruption in the territory, which ultimately led to the partial suspension of the TCI’s constitution.