Election junkies who’ve already checked every poll three, four, 10 times over can now monitor the travails of individual voters, thanks to the Election Protection Coalition. The nonpartisan group, which mans 1-866-OUR-VOTE, a voter protection hotline, is broadcasting reports of voting problems in real time.
Already today, the group has logged over 12,500 reports from voters who encountered roadblocks while trying to vote, according to its website. (When PaperTrail checked up on this number around 10:30 this morning, it was just over 3,500, meaning the number of reports submitted today more than tripled in the past seven hours.) So far the coalition has fielded the most calls from New York and from Florida, particularly Broward County, a center of controversy during the 2000 recount.
In the last weeks of the campaign, voter registration has become a heated issue. Secretaries of state across the country accused ACORN, a third-party voter registration group, of falsifying registrations and leaving the door open for individual voter fraud. President George W. Bush asked the Justice Department to investigate the registrations of 200,000 voters in Ohio whose names did not match government databases.
The reports from the voter hotline testify to the administrative errors that riddle the voting process. At a briefing this morning, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, a coalition partner, said the hotline was receiving calls about issues with absentee ballots, registration backlogs, and wrongly calibrated voting machines.
At 10:28 this morning, for example, came a report that a first-time Georgia voter was told information was missing from her registration form. She was not on the voter rolls and was not offered a provisional ballot, according to the report. Arnwine said the hotline was receiving many calls from voters who were denied provisional ballots and urged election officials to make sure their poll workers had received proper training. Provisional ballots are the “fail safe” ballots of last resort that must be offered to any voter who claims he or she registered and is eligible to vote.
Beside administrative problems, the hotline is receiving reports of irritating robocalls and flyers containing misleading information. One series of calls in Virginia is telling voters that the election will take place on Wednesday, not Tuesday. Another is claiming it’s possible to vote by phone. Folks, that strategy might work when you’re watching American Idol, but to vote for president, you’ll have to get up off the couch and leave the living room.