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Entries in Election Day (8)

Wednesday
Nov072012

What Caused the Long Voter Lines and Frustration on Election Day?

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When President Obama said Tuesday night in his acceptance speech, "By the way, we have to fix that," he wasn't referring to a specific economic, social or policy issue. He was referring to the issue of voting lines. Long, long voting lines.

Across the nation Tuesday, and then subsequently across Twitter and Facebook, U.S. citizens shared frustrations, photos and information about voting lines. The images of the long queues were a dime a dozen, especially when you looked at the #stayinline hashtag on Twitter. People in states like Florida and Ohio waited up to seven hours. In other states, there were shorter, though still-frustrating two- to three-hour waits.

 

Some experts place the blame on high turnout, but many will tell you the culprit is technology – failed and faulty e-voting machines.

Gone are the days of pulling the lever. Instead now there are two main voting systems: optical scan paper ballot systems and direct recording electronic systems (DREs). Very few jurisdictions still rely on punch cards and hand-counted paper ballots.

The optical scan paper ballot system is the most widely used. A voter fills out a paper ballot using a pen and then it is put in a scanner. The votes are tallied through a computer, similar to a Scantron, which is used to score the SATs and other standardized tests.

The second method relies completely on electronics – no paper. The direct recording electronic systems (DREs) include machines that record votes directly onto computer memory. A voter fills out a ballot on the computer directly, either using a touchscreen, button, or a dial.

"It is an electronic version of the lever," explained Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to elections and voting. According to the organization, close to two-thirds of the population used the scanning option while one-third rely on the DRE machines.

But while the DREs and the scanners were supposed to be an improvement over the lever-based systems and hand-punched cards, breakdowns and malfunctions of the equipment have caused issues.

With the scanners, the major issue has been broken machines or paper jams. "What we saw yesterday in some jurisdictions was poll workers asking people to wait and come back because the scanner wasn't working or they had a jam problem. In some events some were asked to fill out new ballots to see if that would go into the scanner," Smith said. "Unfortunately, that resulted in lines because of the equipment failures."

In those cases, Smith and other experts point out that voters can still fill out the ballot and it can then be scanned when the machines are fixed. Some poll managers might know how to repair the jams, but others won't, according to Dominion Voting, a company that makes and provides support for the scanning systems.

With the DRE machines, there was another host of errors, the most notable being a machine in Pennsylvania that switched a vote for Barack Obama to Mitt Romney due to a touchscreen calibration error. There were other reports of similar errors due to touchscreen issues. Many of the touchscreen-equipped machines are made by ES&S, and use resistive screens, an older form of touch technology that requires a firmer press or a sharp point. That type of screen is used in many ATMs or airport kiosks.

Current smartphones and tablets use capacitive screens, which are more sensitive to taps and touches. Smith mentioned that in some centers voters were given a pencil to help make selections on the screen when they have difficulty getting touches to register. ES&S confirmed to ABC News that the systems were last manufactured in 2006.

The type of touchscreen in the systems represents the age of the machines themselves.

"The very unsexy story of this election is the machinery we are using. It is getting older and older, and some of these things are 10 to 15 years old," Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a senior technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told ABC News.

But not only is the tech old, the machines simply aren't being repaired or cared for.

"Why, after all this time and experience, is this happening still in 2012? What we think is that in some places they were actually starting out with fewer pieces of equipment than in the past," Smith said. Some districts reported to Verified Voting that as much as 25 percent of the equipment wasn't working. Other experts ABC spoke to said the same. Many cited examples like, while there were eight machines in a particular poll place last year, this year there was only five.

In Lee County, Fla., where some of the longest lines were, the Supervisor of Elections said that there was not a large enough backup supply of scanning machines. Districts simply hadn't repaired or replaced machines since past elections.

"You are going to have issues of the wear and tear over time. But everyone knows that counties and local districts have been under budgetary pressures," Chris Riggall, a spokesperson for Dominion Voting, told ABC News. "It is always a pressure to get funding for voting systems, when you have other demands at the local level, which is where all this happens." Dominion Voting provides in-person and help desk support for optical scanner systems.

Naturally, the proponents of online voting say that Internet voting is the right technology solution. In fact, when ABC spoke to Lori Stelle, the CEO of Everyone Counts, a company that makes online voting solutions, she pointed to these electronic voting issues and said they will be the reason people turn to voting through the Internet.

However, others don't see the likelihood of Internet voting, due to heavy security concerns; they maintain a bigger change has to happen. "In two major jurisdictions election officials have reached out to technologists, to audit experts, to different language experts, to usability advocates in an effort to identify what they want in the next generation of voting systems," Smith said. "Our next voting system isn't just going to go to the current marketplace for the solution."

Then there are those who believe the biggest fix can come from a different technology -- the technology of organizing people. "It is a matter of management, not technology," Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT, told ABC News. "Having too few voting centers, having too few staff and not putting the resources in the right places. Really, it is a matter of management."

Others echoed that point, saying that much of the bottleneck of the lines happens as people check-in at the polls, not with the availability of working machines.

Whatever the solution, the experts agreed with the re-elected president of the United States: "We have to fix that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov072012

Email Voting for NJ Storm Victims Failed, Votes Not Counted Tuesday

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- 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."

Election officials around the state were bombarded by requests from voters to vote electronically.  Each request took staffers up to 15 minutes to process as they received the email or fax request, checked the voter registration lists for matching identities, and completed paperwork before emailing a ballot to the voter.

In Hudson County, in northern New Jersey, the county clerk had received more than 2,000 requests for email ballots by Tuesday morning, at which point they stopped processing requests altogether.

Essex County voters were met with busy signals on phone and fax lines, as well as email rejections from full inboxes, as they tried to submit requests to receive electronic ballots, according to the clerk's office.

"The state didn't give us enough time to prepare," Morris County Clerk Joan Bramhall told NJ.com.

Carl Block, the county administrator for Ocean County, one of the hardest-hit regions of the state, said he expected the electronic voting difficulties to affect fewer than 50,000 voters in the state, and that the number would not prevent the state being called in the national election Tuesday night.

Gov. Chris Christie enacted email voting on Saturday in the aftermath of Sandy, which destroyed thousands of homes along the Jersey Shore and displaced thousands of New Jersey residents, along with disrupting power to about 800 polling sites.

"Hundreds of voters are out of state, displaced, and may not be able to use email or fax, partly because the counties are overwhelmed with the response to this option.  Part of it is that people are trying to fax their applications in and can't get through," said Jeanne Locicero, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey.

The ACLU went to court twice Tuesday on behalf of New Jersey voters, the first time to ask for an extension to the deadline to submit emailed ballots, and the second time to request that voters be allowed to use a federal absentee ballot available as a PDF online.

The state's Division of Election issued a ruling at 2 p.m. extending the deadline for voters to submit email ballots until 8 p.m. on Friday.

A judge in Essex County denied the ACLU's request to let voters use the federal absentee ballot.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov072012

Top Six Weirdest Items Americans Voted on in 2012 Election

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Most of the ballot initiatives that Americans took to the polls to vote on this Tuesday were no laughing matter.  But in some states, voters were asked to weigh in on issues that some may consider rather odd.  

Take a look at the top six weirdest items American’s voted on in the 2012 election:

Required Use of Condoms in Porn Movies

In Los Angeles County, voters were asked their opinion on whether or not actors in the adult film industry should be required to wear condoms and practice safe sex while shooting scenes in L.A.  The Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, also called Measure B, was introduced in response to repetitive allegations of sexually transmitted disease outbreaks among adult film industry workers.

Who Owns the Grand Canyon?

When Arizona voters arrived to the polls, they found themselves involved in a battle over boundaries.  Proposition 120 questions whether millions of acres of federal land in the state, including the Grand Canyon, should remain in the hands of the federal government, or officially become the property of Arizona’s residents.  The ballot measure, supported by the state’s Republicans, seeks to amend the state’s constitution to declare Arizona’s sovereignty over the “air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries.”

The Right to Hunt and Fish

In Nebraska and Wyoming, two states where hunting and fishing seem like second nature, voters officially had the chance in this election to establish their right to hunt and fish.

Idaho is also considering a similar initiative this year.  The Idaho Fish and Game Commission have opposed lawmakers’ efforts to make hunting, fishing and trapping a constitutional right for more than 10 years.  However this year, Twin Falls Republican Sen. Lee Heider was finally successful in getting the issue on the ballot, asking Idaho voters to add language saying “the rights to hunt, fish and trap … shall forever be preserved” to the state constitution.

Harsher Punishments for Animal Cruelty

In North and South Dakota, animal cruelty is only a misdemeanor.  But on Tuesday, North Dakota voters had the opportunity to change the fact that animal cruelty is punished the same as littering on their ballots.

North Dakota voters weighed in on Measure 5, which would allow harsher punishments for animal abuse cases involving live cats, dogs or horses.  The specific actions the measure cracks down upon are maliciously and intentionally burning, poisoning, crushing, suffocating, impaling, drowning, blinding, skinning, beating to death, dragging to death, exsanguinating, disemboweling or dismembering.

Legalize Marijuana

Three states voted on the legalization of marijuana Tuesday.  Colorado, Oregon and Washington all considered making the drug a legal product that would be regulated by the state.  

Those who want to decriminalize marijuana say that it would be taxable so the state government could make money.  They also argue it would create jobs.

Opponents say it would just promote marijuana use. It’s also being argued that if only one state chooses to legalize the drug, it would increase production and cause price drops across the country.

Must Label Genetically Modified Food

One of the most controversial ballot measures is California’s Prop 37, which states that all genetically modified food must be labeled as such in grocery stores.

According to the Washington Post, more than 88 percent of corn and soy grown in the United States is genetically modified in some way.  Consumer watchdogs and organic food companies say Californians deserve to know what they are eating.

Corporate food and bio tech companies have spent more than $44 million fighting the proposition, saying it will raise food prices and hurt businesses.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

At Colo. Polling Place, Church Has Anti-Abortion Display

Jessica Cuneo/Daily Camera(BOULDER, Colo.) -- A Boulder, Colo., church that is serving as a polling location has chosen to leave up its anti-abortion display for Election Day.

The Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church has left up signs and crosses meant to represent aborted fetuses as part of an October “Respect Life” month display on church grounds where Boulder County voters came to cast their votes Tuesday.

Molly Tayer, Boulder County’s deputy clerk and election coordinator, told ABC News that she had contacted the church regarding the removal of the religious signage when it was brought to her attention a few weeks ago.

She said she was told initially that the display would be taken down come the first weekend of November.

But Tayer got a call back on Friday from the church to let her know that “father has decided not to take it down.”

“We feel badly that we didn’t realize that this wasn’t going to be taken down this weekend, otherwise I would have tried to make other accommodations [for voters],” Tayer said. “After you advertise a polling place, it’s very difficult to change.”

Church representatives had signed a contract to serve as a polling place in April, said Tayer.

While there are regulations preventing electioneering – handing out materials, posting yard signs  – within 100 feet of an actual polling site, the church has not violated these rules, Tayer said.

According to Karna Swanson, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Denver, officials had previously come to the church, surveyed the exhibit, and found no violation.

Voters can drive up to the polling site and not even see the signs, Swanson said.

“You’re going to have some religious signs around if you use the church as a polling site,” said Swanson.

While she hasn’t heard many people complain as of Election Day, Tayer said that “a number of our voting population found [the display] offensive.”

This is the second time the church has served as a polling site, Tayer said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

Big Bird Gets Out the Vote

@sophers_/Instagram/ABC News(AUSTIN, Texas) -- It turns out Big Bird can vote.

Making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook is a very happy costumed character. Yes, it's Big Bird or, well, a journalist from the Austin American Statesman dressed up in a Big Bird suit.

John Kelso, a columnist at the paper, decided to show up at his local polling center in a full-on Big Bird suit, and like a good citizen he even checked to make sure it was legal.

For those who missed why Big Bird is significant during this election — Mitt Romney, during the Oct. 3 presidential debate, declared that while he liked Big Bird, he might end federal funding for PBS. The social media reaction ensued.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

The Legal Battles Begin: GOP, Dems Spar Over Voting in Pennsylvania

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As voters head to the poll on Tuesday to choose between Mitt Romney and President Obama, thousands of lawyers and poll watchers from both camps are engaged in their own parallel battle over which votes will be counted.

The first shot fired in the battle came Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, where Republican officials protested to the state's Court of Common pleas that their inspectors were being blocked from polling places.

Pennsylvania GOP officials said that about 75 Republican inspectors in Philadelphia were not able to access polling places.

"This was a shameless attempt from the Obama campaign to suppress our legally appointed Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia and they got caught," Rob Gleason, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said in a statement.

Democrats argued that the issue was about credentialing, and that they were trying to ensure that the inspectors had valid certificates in order to be seated at the polling places.  The court quickly issued an order saying that certified inspectors should be allowed into their designated polling places.

The court hearing was the first of what will be many legal tussles on Tuesday, and is emblematic of both campaigns' reliance on attorneys and poll watchers across the country to monitor voting, especially in swing states.  Clawing their way to victory will mean the campaigns of Romney and Obama must ensure that problems with access or machines don't impair their candidate's ability to win the election.

In large part, Democrats fear voter suppression tactics, while Republicans are wary of voter fraud.

Volunteer attorneys affiliated with both sides are on the ground at polling stations in swing states, wired into campaign headquarters with smart phones and apps, ready to present challenges to local judges.

Both sides will be concentrating on issues such as voter registration and eligibility, poll watcher activity, ballot counting, polling hours and machine malfunctions.

The first report of machine malfunctions came out of New Jersey, where voting booths at the Millburn public library stalled Tuesday morning and officials switched to provisional ballots.

In key swing states, including Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Florida, officials told ABC News that operations were running smoothly.

New Hampshire officials said that polling sites there were seeing heavy turnout and "many same-day voter registrations."

If states begin to see hiccups in their smooth operations, including malfunctions or legal challenges, judges in all 50 states are on stand-by on Tuesday to issue quick rulings and help iron out contentious issues.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

Ballot and Polling-Place Photos: Think Before You Instagram or Share

Joanna Stern/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media outlets you can imagine are on fire Tuesday with photos of people voting.  But before you snap a shot of your ballot or inside the polling place, you might want to think twice.

As pointed out by Pro Publica, the investigative journalism group in New York City, it is illegal to take a photo or a recording in polling centers in many states.  State laws in Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia, for instance, directly prohibit recording inside a polling place.

“No photography is permitted in the polling room or early-voting area,” Section 102.031(5) of the Florida statute says.

In addition to recording or taking photos in polling places, in many states -- including Alaska, New York, New Jersey and Utah -- taking a photo of one’s marked ballot and sharing it is also prohibited.  The Digital Media Law Project provides a breakdown by state of where it is prohibited or allowed to take photos or recordings in polling places.

“In Maryland and in many states, Instagraming the ballot or utilizing other recording devices while voting in a public place is prohibited,” Bradley Shear, a social media lawyer in Maryland, told ABC News.  “People should feel free to exercise their constitutional right to vote without fear that their votes may be captured and posted online for the entire world to see.  Therefore, it is good public policy to restrict the use of cameras and/or video in a public polling area.”

So, what is the penalty if you do it?

“In the states where it is prohibited, it is generally a misdemeanor.  Those are usually penalized by a fine and or up to a year in jail,” Jeffrey Hermes, the director of the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University, told ABC News.  “Some states, most notably Hawaii and Michigan, have provisions for the disqualification of your vote if you disclose it publicly.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

Illinois Woman in Labor Stops to Vote on Way to Hospital

Cook County Clerk's Office(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago mom-to-be didn't let being in labor stop her from doing her duty as a citizen on Election Day.

With contractions five minutes apart, Galicia Malone stopped at Precinct 88 in Chicago to cast her vote on her way to the hospital, according to the Cook County Clerk's Office.

Malone, 21, was determined to vote in her first presidential election, even though her water had broken.  She voted at around 8:30 a.m. at the fittingly-named New Life Celebration Church, according to ABC News' Chicago affiliate WLS-TV.

Once she had voted, she headed to the hospital to deliver her baby.

"If only all voters showed such determination to vote," Cook County Clerk David Orr said in a news release.  "My hat goes off to Galicia for not letting anything get in the way of voting.  What a terrific example she is showing for the next generation, especially her new son or daughter."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio