Huffpost Politics

True The Vote Barred From Ohio Polling Stations

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TRUE THE VOTE OHIO
A line of people fill the entrance to East Elementary School as an election worker helps a voter find her district early Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Long Beach, N.Y. The watchdog group True The Vote was barred from observing elections at several polling locations in Franklin County, Ohio. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek) | AP
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The right-wing group True The Vote has been prohibited from monitoring elections in voting stations around Columbus, Ohio, and may soon find itself under investigation for fraud, the Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday.

The Houston-based group, which is dedicated to challenging the legitimacy of voters it considers suspect, had its status as an official vote monitor denied in Franklin County, after the necessary number of candidates to assign poll observers withdrew their support for the group, according to the Dispatch.

Elections officials in Franklin County told the paper that some of application forms requesting observer status for the group's Ohio branch, the Voter Integrity Project, appeared to have supporting names that were falsified or forged.

True The Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht denied the charges in a strongly worded statement and warned the group would be taking legal action.

"This is a final, desperate attempt to deny citizens their right to observe elections," said Engelbrecht. "The Ohio Democratic Party has projected paranoia on an international scale by promoting the idea that concerned citizens would dare observe elections to ensure a fair process. If the Ohio Democratic Party thinks True the Vote-trained poll watchers are legion, wait until it meets our lawyers.”

True The Vote has come under fire lately for appearing to focus its energies largely on minority voters. Last week, ABC News reported that True The Vote had been taking minority voters in Cincinnati to court to force them to prove the validity of their registration, and had plans to send observers to minority-heavy polling areas to confront voters on Election Day.

As far back as 2010, the group faced accusations -- and even a Department of Justice investigation -- into reports that its hunt for voter fraud is tantamount to organized voter intimidation.

In Ohio, activist poll watchers from the group have been reported for aggressively scrutinizing the identification and registration documents of prospective voters, following them with cameras and standing right next to them as they fill out paperwork.

What was your polling place like this year? The Huffington Post is eager to hear your experiences and see your photos. Email us at openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

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Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, senior attorney and director of voter protection for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group, reported to HuffPost problems in two precincts. She said that she had to return to one North Miami precinct three times to assist poll workers.

In one instance, elderly residents, and residents with literacy issues sought out help from Advancement Project staff. Poll watchers intervened and tried to prevent them from assisting these voters, Culliton-Gonzalez said.

The same precinct also did not have a bilingual poll worker. An election protection worker was asked to help translate. That worker was promptly kicked out of the precinct. After much back and forth, she was allowed back in," she said. She was evicted a second time, before polling staff again allowed her back in.

The protection worker, Betsy Aguirre, said that she had tried to help a Spanish-speaking voter and another who had trouble reading the ballot before getting evicted. She said that in the morning, the precinct claimed it did not have any sample ballots that could have assisted voters, but hours later, the samples were discovered.

In another precinct, Culliton-Gonzalez said a GOP lawyer managed to get inside the voting area. "The voters and the poll workers were all people of color," she explained. "She bullied her way in." The lawyer was eventually kicked out.

All the voters stuck it out and voted, she believes. "Luckily, the voters were not intimidated," she said. "We didn't have anyone leave. Election protections were there."

--Jason Cherkis

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@ Tschoenberg22 : Election Day Voting Target Voter ID, Mural of Obama http://t.co/THA9Cp2J via @BloombergNews

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HuffPost reader Kira Young reported she was questioned intensely by a poll worker in Winchester, Va., this morning about her street address. Young said that when she presented her voter I.D. card to the poll worker, the worker pressed for details of where her house was located. Young said the poll worker said it was because he had never heard of Young's street.

Young, who was allowed to vote, said she reported the incident to the poll supervisor, who said the poll worker was making sure she was voting in the right district and declined to take a formal complaint. As she was leaving the polling place, Young said she told Democratic volunteers at the location. She said the Obama campaign dispatched a representative to monitor the polling location.

-- John Celock

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The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney reports that Virginia voters will be casting ballots until at least 9 p.m., and that "only 2 of Fairfax county’s 237 precincts have actually stopped voting."

This could add up to a late night of nerves for the Obama campaign as one of its Virginia strongholds trickles in late. In 2008, Obama won heavily populated Fairfax County, 60.12 percent to 38.93 percent.

-- Jason Linkins

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HuffPost's Alexander Eichler and Kristen Taylor report:

The Election Protection Coalition serves as a nonpartisan voter protection organization, with trained volunteers answering questions and recording reports of election abnormalities across all precincts. By 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the organization said it had received 74,679 calls.

Ellis Jacobs, an attorney and volunteer with Election Protection in Montgomery County, Ohio, told The Huffington Post this afternoon that turnout is high in his part of the state, and that, by and large, voters seemed happy with their experience at the polls. Jacobs noted that as part of a cost-saving measure, Montgomery County is operating half as many polling places this year as it did in 2008, a cutback that he said “forced a lot of people into some locations that were not necessarily suited to have a lot of people,” and created some “claustrophobic” situations early in the day.

Jacobs also said that he’d been told a woman claiming to be from ORCA -- a Republican poll monitoring program staffed by volunteers -- came to a Dayton polling location and spent time “looking over the shoulders of the poll workers” and “telling the poll workers what they should and should not be doing.” Jacobs said that the woman was reportedly removed from the polling station after staffers asked if she was there in an official capacity and she said that she was not.

Read more at HuffPost.

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A poll worker in Wichita, Kan., was matching voters' addresses on voter rolls with the address on their photo I.D. -- a level of identification not required under state law, a HuffPost reader reported. Under state law, the I.D. card has to have a photo of the voter, but does not need to show a current address. The decision to try to match the addresses was causing a backup in provisional ballots being distributed to voters at Central Christian Church.

Kay Curtis, a spokeswoman for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), said the elections division had been in contact with the Sedgwick County elections commissioner's office to stop the address matching. She said it was a limited problem in one polling location.

Kobach has been a proponent of the voter I.D. law in Kansas, which was adopted by the state legislature this year. This year's Kansas ballot contains a number of competitive races for the state House and Senate, including several in Wichita. Heavy voting has been reported across the Sunflower State, with projections that turnout may exceed Kobach's prediction of 68 percent.

-- John Celock

This post started with a reader email. Share your experiences voting today by emailing us at openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

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After weeks of threats from Republican political figures, the international elections monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told the Huffington Post that they had no trouble at polling locations on Tuesday.

"No incidents were reported from any of our people in the field," said Thomas Rymer, a spokesman for the 50-person observer mission.

-- Joshua Hersh

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Thousands of Colorado mail ballots have been rejected because of signature issues. Voters either didn't sign them or election officials have determined there is a discrepancy.

Read more at The Denver Post.

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Ben Brink, the former Navy Seal whose conservative watchdog group of retired special forces officers traveled around Philadelphia, Cleveland and other hotspot cities to guard against reports of voter intimidation, shared his final report with The Huffington Post.

Much of the group's attention focused on the appearance of men dressed in New Black Panther garb, something that grabbed headlines on Fox News for much of the day. Kerry Patton, a former U.S. intelligence officer working with Brink, observed the men at several points over the course of the day, culminating in a conversation about "their intent" around 6:00 p.m.

Speaking with a man who identified himself as the group's spokesman, Kerry was told that the men were there "not to intimidate but to ensure that voters were able to vote and that everything went smoothly," Brink reports. "The NBPP members were very polite and, as Kerry said even 'pretty cool.'"

"Despite rumors and concerns, it was a relatively calm Election day, intimidation-wise," Brink concluded.

Read the full report below:

Here is the final report from Philadelphia:

Report from former US Intelligence Officer Kerry Patton at [email redacted].

Kerry observed NBPP activity at the Philadelphia Ward 14, District 4 polling place at 1221 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19123.

We had received rumors of NBPP activity all over Philadelphia but could not find any activity except at the address above.

At about 1730 EST, Kerry Patton drove by the poll and checked in with Ben Brink via phone. He observed one uniformed NBPP member and two gentlemen possibly in their mid-60s dressed in civilian attire. Activity was consistent with the videos taken by the news media all day.

Kerry then drove off.

At about 1800, Kerry came back. After checking with Ben Brink on the phone, Kerry went up to the NBPP and the two gentleman in civilian dress. He told them who he was and that he was observing any intimidation at the polls. He

asked them if they would mind making their intent clear and if he could film the discussion for the record. The NBPP members stated they would prefer not to be photographed but that they would be glad to state their intent.

The spokesman, the civilian dressed gentleman, stated that they were there not to intimidate but to ensure that voters were able to vote and that everything went smoothly. The NBPP members were very polite and, as Kerry said even “pretty cool”.

Kerry then thanked them and left. He noticed that they were handing out pamphlets as he drove away.

That’s it. Philadelphia is quiet.

Final Report from Cleveland:

The group of 11 NBPP members in the café started to break up at 1744, with about half leaving. Former Ranger KS let about 1710 and continued to observe from outside for the next few minutes. At about 1715, the café closed the curtains--only about 5 were still there, perhaps for supper.

Nothing more in Cleveland.

Summary, despite rumors and concerns, it was a relatively calm Election day, intimidation-wise, in the several cities we observed and in the reporting we received from a couple of hundred tweeters around the country.

--Joshua Hersh

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@ Reuters : Complaints about voter IDs, ballots, long lines in election http://t.co/2ojnWnmB

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Polls in Virginia have technically closed, but reports of long lines persist, which means we may not know the winner of its 13 electoral votes until later tonight.

Morgan Whitaker reported for MSNBC that the longer lines appear to be in some of the Commonwealth's "key Democratic strongholds."

State Board of Elections head Don Palmer reported high turnout across the state this afternoon. “Turnout is robust— large turnout, anticipate a very large turnout,” Palmer said. “We think it will be higher than 2008.”

Palmer said the Board is working to help with long lines in Spotsylvania, Henrico, Fairfax, Prince William County, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Arlington. That includes at least four major areas that are heavily populated and lean Democratic.

Voters may vote after the deadline, provided that they were in line when the clock struck seven.

-- Jason Linkins

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HuffPost reader Ryan Mobley reports that he and his sister were forced to cast provisional ballots Tuesday morning in Greene County, Ohio. Mobley said that while they both received confirmation from county election officials over the summer that indicated they were registered to vote in Greene County, neither of their names appeared in the voting book when they went to vote. He said he produced ID and other documents with his address and was told he was only able to vote provisionally. Mobley noted that a poll worker had to open a packet of provisional ballots for the two to use and also read the directions for provisional voting.

"I am truly disgusted," Mobley said. "I am a young voter but have exercised my right to vote many times before. I have also voted in Franklin and Montgomery counties in the past and I have never experienced a problem before today."

-- John Celock

This post started with a reader email. Share your experiences voting today by emailing us at openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

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An unusually large number of provisional ballots was being cast in two predominantly Democratic counties in Ohio. Donita Judge, the lead attorney for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group in the state, told HuffPost that both Hamilton and Franklin counties seemed to show an uptick in provisional ballots.

Judge said registered voters were showing where they had voted in the past and were told they are not on the voter rolls. "I'm certainly worried about the number of provisional ballots and whether they are being legitimately cast," Judge said.

Judge added that others have been given misinformation about what is a legitimate ID. Ohio requires ID -- but not a picture ID, she said.

The provisional ballots won't be counted for 10 days.

-- Jason Cherkis

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@ wsjMelanie : Voting Glitches, Partisan Disputes Mar Vote - http://t.co/iTPjHiph http://t.co/20vmSwul via @WSJ

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HuffPost reader Holly Dykstra reports that it took her three hours to vote this morning in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, Va. Dykstra said she got in line at her polling place at 8 a.m. and did not vote until 11 a.m. Rosslyn is located across the Potomac River from the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington.

Dykstra's report comes after Nicholas Vucic reported a three-hour wait to vote at his polling place in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington. Vucic updated HuffPost Tuesday evening and said that the line is at least two hours long as people vote after work. Pentagon City is a 10-minute drive from Rosslyn.

Here is a photo from Rosslyn Tuesday morning.

rosslyn

This post started with a reader email. Share your experiences voting and email us at openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

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HuffPost's Amanda Terkel and Luke Johnson reports:

WASHINGTON -- In October, a Pennsylvania judge blocked the state from implementing its voter ID law in time for the 2012 elections. But his opinion was complicated: Election officials are allowed to ask voters to show photo ID, but they can't require them to do so in order to cast a ballot. And now, on Election Day, that ruling is causing significant confusion among both voters and poll workers.

"The state did a horrible job about educating voters about what the ID requirements were for this election," said Marcia Johnson-Blanco with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. "What we find today is that voters are showing up at the polls and in many precincts -- far too many -- they're either being turned away because they don't have the ID, or they're being asked to vote with a provisional ballot, which is not what the law requires."

This experience is also being borne out by Huffington Post readers. Lea Hyland, a voter from Drexel Hill, Pa., sent in a photo of a sign hanging on the door to her polling location at Holy Child Academy. The sign states, "ALL VOTERS must show one of the following approved forms of Photo Identification to vote." The Delaware County Election Bureau said that the sign hadn't been reported and it would send someone to Drexel Hill to check it out.

Read more at HuffPost.

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Election judges in Annapolis, Md., intervened to remove a bulletin board at a church polling place that seemed to tie the first family to an argument against gay marriage, Annapolis Patch reports. The board featured a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day with text about the "art of marriage" and "God's design."

The billboard doesn't explicitly mention same-sex marriage, but several voters took it as a subtle jab against a state referendum on the subject. "The Election Board had a bipartisan discussion, and they said the board could stay, but we had to remove the picture," election judge Roger Cantrell told Patch.

Read the full story here.

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@ KevinOzebek : #BREAKING results may not be tabulated until tomorrow morning for some South Florida precincts due to massive lines. From @dt007

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@ BuzzFeedBen : Top Ohio Democrat Warns On Cincinnati Balloting http://t.co/R7w4ChQ3 via @buzzfeedpol

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An Ohio elementary school had to take down student-created posters of the two presidential candidates because they violated federal law against campaigning within 100 feet of a polling station, Beachwood Patch reports:

"It's unclear how many were hanging, but the Board of Elections was contacted at around 9 a.m. and school staff took them down right away.

The posters were drawn by Bryden kids during a mock election that took place at the school yesterday, district spokesperson Doug Levin said, though he was unaware that any were hanging in the hallway in question."

Read more.

-- Sarah Bufkin

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A 92-year-old man with a broken back voted on Tuesday anyway, The Roanoke Times reported.

The man broke a vertebrae in his neck while in Florida and wasn't able to apply on time for an absentee ballot in his native Virginia. So he made his daughter, Vickie Martines, take him to the polls. He wasn't even able to get out of the car, due to his injury, but an election official brought out a portable voting machine and allowed him to vote.

"He told me he's voted in every presidential election since Roosevelt," Martines told Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey. "He wasn't going to let a broken hip and a fractured next stop him."

She wasn't sure who he voted for, but she said she suspected it would be for the president.

"He's always voted Republican," she said. "But he thought [President George W.] Bush was terrible. He’s said he’s never going to vote Republican again. So I think he’s voting for Obama."

Read the full story here.

-- Elise Foley

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HuffPost readers have been emailing in that there has been heavy turnout with at least two-hour waits at polling places in downtown Kansas City, Mo. While the lines have been long downtown, readers said that in suburban Platte and Clay counties, turnout has been high but the lines have been moving steadily. There have also been reports of steady turnout in Independence, Mo., and St. Louis, along with high turnout in Columbia. Columbia is the home of the main campus of the University of Missouri.

Missouri features several key battles this year, including the U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Rep. Todd Akin, which has been one of the most competitive in the country. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is has largely lead in his battle for a second term against Republican Dave Spence. Two of the most competitive races in the state include the lieutenant governor's race between Republican incumbent Peter Kinder and Democrat Susan Montee and the open secretary of state race between Democrat Jason Kander and Republican Shane Schoeller.

-- John Celock

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Polls in Galveston County, Texas, are being kept open for an extra two hours because voting machines didn't work properly in the morning, the Houston Chronicle reports. The paper writes:

A Galveston County judge has ordered that polls remain open one hour and 54 minutes after the normal closing time because of problems with voting machines, the Galveston County Clerk's Office said.

District Judge John Ellisor ordered that polling places remain open until 8:54 p.m. at the request of officials from the Democratic and Republican parties, said Neil Baron, attorney for the Democrats.

The order said that all votes cast after 7 p.m. would be cast as provisional ballots.

The paper reports that around 100 people had to wait in line to vote at one polling place in Galveston County. Election officials blamed the slow start on a process known as "zeroing out", which is ensuring that the voting machines didn't have any votes that had already been recorded.

-- Daniel Lippman

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@ AFP : Vote glitch reports pile up in US election http://t.co/V0kVUO8G by @rleverafp #Election2012

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Tensions grew in a predominantly African-American precinct in eastern Virginia as voters waited more than four hours to cast their votes, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

"This is just wrong," Deborah Gomes, according to the paper. "Who has four hours to vote? I know this could have been handled better."

The line snaked its way through the hallways of a community center, around the building, past a basketball court, and spilled into a block party being organized on the street.

"At least they did that, so we can eat, because we're hungry," one voter told videographers from the Pilot Online. "It's just ridiculous. I don't understand the problem."

Pilot reporters observed that despite there being 11 voting stations at the site, delays at the voter ID table often left half of the stations unused. By late afternoon, a fourth computer reportedly on the way to the site to help speed up the check-in and verification process.

Read the whole story here.

--Joshua Hersh

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The ubiquitous "I Voted" sticker isn't just a good tool to show your friends and co-workers that you did your civic duty today, according to Derek Thompson of The Atlantic. The sticker may actually increase voter turnout. In a post for The Atlantic, Thompson summarized a study by economist Patricia Funk, who looked at lessons the Swiss government learned when it tested a "vote-by-mail" system that lowered turnout because it reduced the "social pressure" of voting.

Thompson writes that people like being seen voting and as having voted:

Theoretically something signalling to our community that we've already voted should create the same feelings of social cohesion, civic duty, and belonging. And that's where the 'I Voted' sticker comes in.

The 'I Voted' sticker is a signal and an advertisement. It binds people together in solidarity and reminds others to join the group. Tens of millions of people will vote in every presidential election whether there are free stickers or free cookies. But beyond these intrinsically interested (and, possibly, more informed) voters are countless more citizens who need motivation to show up at the ballot box.

The 'I Voted' sticker isn't worth squat on the market. Its value -- and its motivation -- is purely social. And to the extent that it might actually get some marginal Americans to the polls, it's also priceless.

--Daniel Lippman

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@ dsotisWTOP : ALERT: Virginia's Board of Elections says turnout is higher this year than in 2008 #WTOPvote

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@ aterkel : Election protection hotline (@866OurVote) gotten nearly 70K calls already. Lots about PA.

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Two men dressed in all black stood in front of a Redwood City, Calif. polling place Tuesday and asked voters for their IDs, even though the state does not have an ID requirement, Redwood City-Woodside Patch reports:

"The two men, described as "thug-looking," tall and Caucasian with shaved heads, were wearing all black with dark sunglasses and standing in front of the polling place at 134 Hemlock Avenue with their arms crossed.

They carried a binder which they claimed had names and addresses of eligible voters, [voting supervisor Marilyn] Tinderholt said. They were also asking voters to show their IDs, which is not a requirement to vote in the state of California, said volunteer Debra Prime."

Read more here.

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