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electionlineWeekly — November 8, 2012

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

Election 2012: The election that was
No major issues but there were glitches and lines, long lines

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Election Day 2012 has come and gone even though elections officials all across the country are still toiling away counting, recounting, canvassing and auditing the ballots.

By and large November 6 went relatively smoothly and more than 120 million (and counting) registered voters were able to cast their ballots in the 2012 election.

Of course that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its glitches, snafus, lines and odd stories.

Here is a look at some of the major headlines from the 2012 election from the administration side of it. But before we get to that, there’s this:

For every election for as long as electionline can remember, somewhere in the United States, someone, for some reason, has driven their car into a polling place and this year was no different.

Long lines
Long lines really were the story of the day. In fact, the lines were so long and so prevalent across the country that President Barak Obama (D) specifically mentioned them in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning.

What caused the lines really varied from state to state, county to county and even polling place to polling place. In many situations it was simply an overwhelming number of voters. In others, such as the District of Columbia it was a combination of larger than expected turnout and nearly 100 poll workers who failed to show up on Election Day.

Voter ID
Interestingly enough, voter ID was not particularly an issue in the states where it’s the actual law, but the problems that did crop up with voter ID came from states where it’s not the law yet or at all.

In Pennsylvania, where a judge put the state’s strict photo ID law on hold until after November 6, confusion reigned at many polling places because elections officials were still asking for ID, albeit not requiring it.

In Riverside County, Calif. voters reported being asked by poll workers to show their ID in order to cast a ballot. California law does not require a photo ID to vote.

Virginia’s new voter ID law, which does not require a photo, there were relatively few reports of problems. Many local registrars reported no problems and said the lack of problems really came from an extensive pre-election voter outreach program.

There were reports in Texas that voters were being asked for photo ID in order to cast their ballots although the state’s voter photo ID law was not in effect on Tuesday and is currently in the court system.

Elections officials in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, where voter photo ID was in place for the first time during a presidential election reported few problems throughout the day.

Sandy
States affected by Superstorm Sandy spent the days leading up to Election Day scrambling to come up with alternative plans so that voters could cast their ballots.

In New Jersey there were numerous issues with voters not being able to find their polling places. The state, which decided to allow ballots to be emailed or fax was so overwhelmed with requests to cast a ballot electronically that they had to extend the deadline to submit those ballots to 8pm on Friday.

Residents throughout the storm-affected parts of New York faced a myriad of problems on Election Day many of them relatively minor. The same cannot be said for those attempting to cast a ballot in one of New York City’s five boroughs.

Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a pre-election order essentially turning New York into a vote center jurisdiction overnight, that didn’t stop problems from arising in New York City that has been plagued with problems for several previous elections.

“I didn’t think the Board of Elections could do a worse job than they did on Primary Day, but they succeeded at failing beyond my wildest expectations,” City Council Member Jumaane Williams told Gothamist.

Election-day registration
One of the surprising stories of the day was of the popularity of election-day registration in several states.

In many of the states that offer same-day registration there were reports of long lines of people waiting to register.

Elections officials in three Iowa counties—counties with large college towns—said the long lines on Election Day were the direct result of the sheer number of people registering to vote that day.

Election judges in Minnesota reported more same-day registrations than they’ve ever seen in past elections.

The lines for same-day registration were so long in Montana, that residents were still lined up to register and vote hours after the polls closed. This was Montana’s second presidential election with same-day registration and poll workers said there were far more people using that option than four years ago.

New Hampshire officials also report seeing an unprecedented number of voters registering at the polls on Tuesday.

In Rhode Island, officials in Providence reported that more than 600 people had registered to vote at the polls by noon on Election Day.

Election observers
What some thought would be the big story of Election Day 2012, actually turned out to not be much of a story at all. In the days leading up to the election, officials in Texas and Iowa threatened to jail international election observers and Franklin County, Ohio ended up barring True the Vote observers because they failed to file the proper paperwork in time, but by and large, there was very little news on the poll watcher front on Tuesday. In Wisconsin, where there were as many as 12 poll watchers in some polling sites, there were some reports of issues, but by-and-large things went relatively smoothly.

Website issues
Several states and local elections administrators, including Chicago and Rhode Island had issues with their websites on Election Day with the sites being slow because of the amount of traffic.

Fulton County, Ga.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp called voting in Fulton County on Election Day a “debacle” citing the fact that residents cast thousands of unnecessary paper ballots which will take days to county. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there were reports that voters were not listed in the state’s voter rolls and polling places running out of provisional ballots. Kemp said that he expects lawsuits to be filed of the problems voters faced in Fulton. Officials in Fulton County though held a press conference on election night to discuss the situation. “At the end of the day, we feel we had a successful election,” Interim Elections Director Sharon Mitchell said at the press conference.

Clackamas County, Ore.
Late Friday, the Willamette Weekly broke the news that the Oregon Dept. of Justice was investigating alleged ballot fraud in Clackamas County. According to reports, the state DOJ was investigating reports that a temporary elections employee was tampering with ballots by filling in undervotes on behalf of the Republican candidate. The state sequestered all the ballots that were handled by the elections worker to determine how many, if any, were actually tampered with. At press time, it was determined that six ballots had been tampered with, although the investigation was ongoing. Secretary of State Kate Brown said that the ballots will be counted if the original voter’s intent can be determined.

Richland County, S.C.
Long lines and a lack of voting machines in Richland County, S.C. has some voters calling for the resignation of Lillian McBride, the county’s elections director. A spokesperson for the South Carolina Election Commission said their office received more calls complaining about the process in Richland than in any other election/location in memory. According to The State, some voters waited up to seven hours to cast their ballots, some left the polls without voting and at least 20 percent of the ballots weren’t counted by press time on Wednesday. South Carolina law requires a certain number of voting machines at each polling place and voters and elections workers told the paper that there were fewer voting machines at the polls than in years past. Several state representatives have announced they will hold a hearing about what transpired on Tuesday.

Galveston County, Texas
In Galveston County, Texas a judge ordered the county to keep its polling places open for an additional hour and 54 minutes at the request of the county clerk. Some polling places did not open till as late as 9:30 after voting machines at all 45 polling places took longer than expected to “zero out.” This was also the county’s first use of vote centers.

Secretary of state races
There were five secretary of state offices up for grabs on Tuesday with the incumbents winning three of those seats. In Montana, incumbent Linda McCulloch (D) once again defeated former Secretary of State Brad Johnson (R). Incumbent West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) defeated Republican challenger Brian Savilla by a wide margin. And following what was at times a very contentious race, incumbent Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) defeated Republican challenger Knute Buehler by about 6 percent.

The other two top elections spots up for grabs were open seats. In Missouri, after a long and sometimes heated election cycle, Democrat Jason Kander narrowly defeated Republican Shane Schoeller. The margin of difference was 1.3 percent. And it was another tight race in Washington where Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman (R) defeated former state Senator Kathleen Drew by about 1.2 percent.

Ballot measures
There were three elections-related ballot measures up for vote on Tuesday and all three failed.

In Minnesota, an amendment to require voter photo ID at the polls failed to reach the 50 percent threshold for approval. The amendment received approximately 46 percent of the vote. Legislators have already said they will once again try to legislate photo ID in the upcoming legislative session.

Arizona voters soundly defeated Proposition 121 on Tuesday. Under Proposition 121, the state would have scrapped its traditional primary system in favor of a top-two primary. Although unofficial results showed the measure failing by a large margin, the organization that brought it forward said it’s hopeful about the future of open primaries in Arizona.

For the second time, voters in East St. Louis voted in opposition to disband the city’s board of elections. There were 3,013 voters in favor of the initiative and 8,086 opposed. Although this was the second failure for the measure, it could be back. “We certainly expect to put it back on the ballot,” Matt Hawkins, leader of the East St. Louis Alliance for Change told the Madison-St. Clair Record. “The question is when and under what auspices.”

Odds and ends at the polls
And then there were all the other human issues at the polls on Tuesday. From fires to fist fights to women in labor, Election Day always brings a variety of issues that crop up at polling places.

In Chicago, Galicia Malone made headlines when it was reported that not only had her water broken, but that her contractions were a mere five minutes apart when she stopped by her polling place to vote on the way to the hospital to deliver her first baby.

Malone was not the only pregnant woman at the polls. In Florida one voter in Palm Beach County passed out while waiting in line to cast her ballot and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. An election worker brought a ballot to the hospital and she was able to vote by absentee.

Also in Chicago, police arrested and charged a member of the Latin Kings street gang after he allegedly harassed and stalked a female poll worker.

It was more “Arachnophobia” than “Charlotte’s Web” in Rehoboth, Mass. when one of the town’s voting machines malfunctioned because a spider had gotten inside and spun a web.

In the District of Columbia a candidate for Advisory Neighborhood Commission was arrested when she allegedly assaulted a man who she claimed was taking down her campaign signs near a polling place.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, two Bay City commissioner candidates got into a fight outside a church polling place.

It was a cold day for voters and election workers alike in one polling place in Charleston, W.Va. where there was no heat. Fortunately the heat was on by 11 a.m.

With valet parking and snacks to munch on while they wait to cast their ballots, voters in the Brentwood section of L.A. County certainly approved of the use of a hotel as a polling place.

Voters at one Sacramento polling place were forced to vote in the playground of an elementary school after the smell of natural gas was reported in the school building.

There are always fears about “dead voters” voting leading up to Election Day, but in one Michigan township, a dead man really did cast a ballot.

It wouldn’t be an election if electionline didn’t mention something about “I Voted” stickers. The Baltimore Sun complied a photo diary of “I Voted” stickers from around the country. But you know what’s better than “I Voted” stickers? Babies wearing “I Voted” stickers!

Much like the car-into-polling-place phenomena, there also always seems to be at least one bomb threat at a polling place on Election Day. This election, it was in Yellow Medicine County, Minn. Students and voters were both evacuated from the school polling place for about 90 minutes.

Now about that car we mentioned earlier. In Pennsylvania an elderly voter crashed his car into a polling place in Montgomery County. Voting was not interrupted and according to reports, the driver was not hurt.

Elections are serious, important business, but please, keep your eyes on the road.