I’m blogging from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s war room. I had hoped to report that six years after the Florida electoral debacle, four years after enactment of the Help America Vote Act and billions of dollars spent on the machinery of our democracy, there would be no more drama at the polls.
Instead, early reports suggest that while some things have changed, restoring voters’ confidence in the integrity and fairness of the electoral process remains a challenge.
There are reports of dirty tricks in Maryland and long lines at polling places with folks leaving in frustration.
Kirk Clay of Common Cause reported that as of 1:30 pm, the National Voter Hotline at 1-866-MYVOTE1 received 15,000 calls. Clay characterized the tone of the calls as exasperating. “People are leery of the accuracy of the machines, which is reflected in the unusually high number of absentee ballots cast by African Americans in Tennessee and Virginia.”
In stark contrast to 2004 when calls to the hotline were about long lines, today there’s concern about the impact of technology on voters’ access to the ballot and whether their votes will be counted by the e-voting machines.
Ted Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who’s running a call center, reported “massive machine failures” in Mississippi. He also reported problems with poll worker error, poll worker training and voter confusion about poll location.
Shaw said: “There are two large sets of problems: training and machines, and competence and intentional action taken to suppress voter turnout or voter participation. We must monitor for those violations that are aimed at voter suppression whether through deceitful tactics or incompetence.”
The concern about voter suppression was also expressed by Harvard Law Prof. Charles Ogletree, who reported from Massachusetts. Ogletree reported a good turnout of enthusiastic voters. There were problems with voting machines in urban areas that were dealt with by lawyers on the ground.
Ogletree: “These are not southern problems. It’s a national problem…Our fight will start in the courts one minute after midnight.”
Dr. Joe Leonard of the Black Leadership Forum observed that voting problems from coast-to-coast show “the fracturing of our electoral process."
Marc Morial of the National Urban League encouraged folks to document the irregularities. “It’s important for us to do our job to protect the vote.”
Rev. James Orange of The People’s Agenda cut to the chase: “I think it’s going to be stolen again.”