With polls closing at 8 p.m. in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Philadelphia voters reported proplems with names missing form rolls, misinformation about voter ID. And New Jersey Shore voters found themselves redirected to consolidated voting sites as the state copes with cleanup from superstorm Sandy.
As Delaware voters head to the polls, several candidates are glad the campaigns are over.
While the polls will be open in Delaware through 8 p.m., Delaware Democrats are feeling confident that this blue state will stay that way. First-term Congressman John Carney says strong turnout for the Presidential election will benefit him and other Democratic candidates.
“I think people are really going to come out and vote, and that will favor the Democrats in Delaware with the registration numbers being what they are today.”
Vice President Joe Biden cast his ballot early this morning at the traditional Biden family voting spot, AI DuPont High School in Greenville. After voting, Biden told reporters, “This is the eighth time I’ve run statewide in the state of Delaware, and it’s always a kick.”
He encouraged voters who may have to wait to vote to stick it out. “People are standing in line a lot of places, and I urge them to stand in line as long as you have to in order to vote.” When asked if this was the last time he would vote for himself as a candidate, Biden replied, “No, I don’t think so.”
After voting in Wilmington, Biden jumped on a plane and made a campaign appearance in the battleground state of Ohio. After that event, he is expected to join President Obama tonight in Chicago.
For Delaware’s senior U.S. Senator Tom Carper, he’s looking forward to the end of the day which marks the end of a rough campaign. “The time it’s election day, I would accept any outcome just to have it over. I felt that way 13 times, I feel that way again. Glad the campaign is over, it’s been a hard campaign.” Carper says he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to serve the people of Delaware in the Senate “for a while longer.”
6:30 p.m. — Philadelphia voter rolls found lacking
WHYY/NewsWorks reporters Emma Jacobs and Holly Otterbein, who visited polling places in Philadelphia throughout the day reported repeated cases the names of newly registered voters being missing from election rolls, with particular problems when the new voter was a foreign-language speaker, because interpreters were hard to find.
The city commissioners reported last week that they were working through a backlog of 20,000 new registrations, with superstorm Sandy and Postal Service snafus adding to the problem. But they expressed confidence the problems would be resolved by Election Day.
Said Jacobs, “Voters are finding they’re not in the poll books, perhaps because of the delay in processing registrations. In any case, there’s no reaching the City Commissioners’ office, which has had busy signals throughout the day.”
“This is compounded in places with large foreign-language speaking populations — such as South Philadelphia,” she added “At the South Philadelphia Library, Nancy Nguyen, an AALDEF volunteer, said Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans were finding they were not in the books and not able to ask for provisional ballots.
“There are supposed to be language support cards with a number to call inside the polling place, but that’s not been the case at this location.”
Ky Ly was another South Philadelphias who had a tough day. He said his name wasn’t on the poll books at his normal polling place, the Di Silvestro Recreation Center. So, he said, election officials sent him running around the city.
“They sent me to Broad and McKean,” he said. “Broad and McKean sent me back to the recreation center. Recreation center sent me here.”
Ly said he was finally able cast his vote at the South Philadelphia Library.
Meanwhile, WHYY/NewsWorks reporter Benjamin Herold filed an update on the mess this morning at Guerin Recreation Center, also in South Philadelphia.
“One judge of elections stormed out, saying he was quitting, after a dispute over who should be signing in voters in one division of the 48th Ward,” said Herold.
The resulting drama was just one of the causes for voting delays there this morning.
Supporters of both presidential candidates also expressed frustration with what they described as widespread disorganization.
Joe Mirarcha, a registered independent who was trying to cast a vote for Mitt Romney, said, “We’ve actually approached three different polling places in this one area, and we’ve been misdirected. We’ve stood in line for about 45 minutes and have been attempting to vote. I think there’s total confusion.”
Frustrated South Philly resident Frank Turner said his supplemental ballot had not yet arrived at the polling place, so he was told he’d have to come back later to cast his vote for Barack Obama.
“I heard some people complaining about how disorganized it was here, and I chuckled and thought it was funny until it happened to me,” he said.
The Committee of Seventy, an election watchdog group, said it has heard complaints from a lot of people in this situation.
If voters discover that their names are missing from the books, City Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer said, they are given a provisional ballot.
Miriam Ringrose, a judge of elections in Northeast Philadelphia, said several voters’ names haven’t been in the books at her polling place. So they’ve voted with provisional ballots.
“This year, we’ve had approximately 20 provisional ballots, which is an extraordinarily large amount for this division,” she says. “Normally, we have like one or two at the very most.”
Singer said her office has gotten “scattered” reports of voters not being on the books. “But nothing like the rumors that we’ve been hearing,” she added.
Singer said about 25 voting divisions out of nearly 1,700 have asked for extra provisional ballots, as of Tuesday afternoon. She said that is more requests than the office got during the entire Election Day in 2008.
Earlier this year, the Committee of Seventy said it was worried that the City Commissioners office wasn’t processing a backlog of voter registrations fast enough.
Singer says she isn’t sure yet why more provisional ballots have been needed this year.
“We don’t know whether the few problems that we are seeing, whether they are due to just large turnout or whether they’re due to database issues,” she said. “Today, the priority is not to do an extensive analysis of exactly why this happened. Today, the focus is on making sure that everyone who shows up at the polls gets to cast a ballot.”
5:40 p.m. — Strong turnout in Bucks County, West Philly
From Langhorne Borough in Bucks County, Pa., WHYY/NewsWorks Eugene Sonn says people are saying the turnout there was “phenomenal.”
“I’m estimating we probably have 600 voters right now,” Republican committeeman John Scheetz said. “Our average in town runs between 400 and 500, and we still have hours to go. This is a great, great turnout.”
Political scientists say the electorate is as polarized and partisan as they’ve seen it, but Steve Schrack of Langhorne bucked the trend. He split his ticket, voting for Mitt Romney, but supporting the Democratic candidate Kathleen Kane for Pennsylvania Attorney General.
“I just think we need a change. Things are tough, and I really just feel we want to move forward with a change,” is how Shrack explained his vote for Romney.
About Kane, he said, “I like her record, and I like what she stands for. And I think she will do some good things.”
Tina Demenczuk is a registered Democrat who did not vote for Obama, this year or in 2008. “I don’t like what we’ve had for the past four years with Obama,” she said. “He’s told a lot of lies, and I’m not happy with the economy. And I think Romney will be better for this country because he’s a businessperson.”
Reports of high turnout were echoed in West Philadelphia. Mathew Grubel, judge of elections for the 27th Ward, 7th division, said it’s been the busiest for elections going back 10 to 15 years.
Grubel says there have been problems with voters who have registration cards but are not on the ballot. And help was not easy to come by.
“This is the first time since we’ve had to use payphones to call the city commissioners that we haven’t been able to get through,” Grubel said. “It’s just busy signal, busy signal.”
Other divisions in West Philadelphia are experiencing similar problems. Lynette Stewart is a poll watcher at the 27th Ward, 7th division. She said, more than any other year, voters seem tense.
“People are more anxious,” she said. “One guy came out and hit the Romney sign with his cane. And I didn’t expect that at all. But people are very uptight.”
Mathew Himmelein, a minority inspector at a polling place in West Philadelphia’s 27th Ward, 2nd division, said a lot of would-be voters weren’t on the rolls.
“I’ve had friends who were officially registered. They have cards saying where they have to go, including here. But they’re not on the roles. They’re not on our list,” he said. “So we’ve had to give them provisional ballots.”
Voters waited in long lines at Himmelein’s polling place, at 47th and Pine streets, this morning.
“Between 7 a.m. and 10:30, we had 250, 300 people waiting from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half,” he said. “We had lines going up to the corner, right through the door here. So for a half hour before we even opened at 6:30 we had folks waiting in line.”
5:15 p.m. — South Jersey voters soldier on
New Jersey has extended the deadline for email voting for displaced residents. The state’s Division of Elections has issued a new directive that gives displaced voters until 8 p.m. Friday to return email and fax ballots. They still must request the ballots by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The new deadline gives county election officials time to verify and process the requests. They must fulfill the requests by noon Friday. The state decided days ago to allow voters displaced by the storm to cast ballots by fax or email.
WHYY/NewsWorks reporter Carolyn Beeler and freelancer Tara Nurin had reports of relatively good news from the Jersey Shore.
Turnout appeared strong at the Upton building in Atlantic City, where several polling locations are being combined, reported Beeler. Some of the street lights but the casinos are all well lit up and open.
One voter who just got power back on her house was college student Shemeeka Harvey, 23, who says she stilll doesn’t have heat. Before coming down to vote, Harvey said she spent most of the day ripping up carpet and floorboards, and scrubbing walls at her house.
She said it was still important for her to vote today. “My forebearers fought hard for me to have the right to vote,” said Harvey, “and I want to make my voice count and my vote count.”
At the single polling location in Ocean City, Carolyn Beeler says voting appears to be going off without a hitch. Last week’s storm knocked power out to many areas and forced election officials to consolidate four voting divisions into one at St. Frances Cabrini Church at 114 Atlantic Ave.
The quarters are a bit cramped, and district election judge Betty Ann Powell said the process a bit more chaotic than usual, but voter turnout was good. Voters said they heard about the changed location from news reports or neighbors.
Three polling locations in Atlantic County were also moved due to storm damage.
Voting turnout is high according to one poll worker at the Ventnor Community Building at 6500 Atlantic Ave. Also, the line of voters was getting longer. Because of the widespread power outages, four voting districts are voting in this Ventnor building that on any other election day would have just two districts.
Ventnor, just south of Atlantic City, is one of the many New Jersey shore towns that were hit by Superstorm Sandy last week. Many here are still without power.
At District Four in Margate, voters cast their ballots in the auditorium of Union Avenue School instead of storm-damaged city hall. Voters there got robocalls about the changed location, or visited city hall, a few blocks away, and saw a sign noting the new location. A poll worker reported about a third of registered voters had cast their ballots by 1 p.m. They also reported more than the usual number of provisional ballots, which displaced New Jersey residents can cast at any polling location in the state.
In the Monmouth County Shore borough of Belmar, Nurin reported that voters are praising public officials for their intensive efforts to alert the community about changes to their polling places.
Throughout the week, officials in the borough of 5,900 year-round residents have been communicating with residents via Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, mail, automated phone alerts, website announcements and old-fashioned flyer distribution in the town square to keep residents abreast of storm recovery efforts. Today they continued with their system of alerts to tell all 3,600 registered voters that the borough’s four polling places had been consolidated into one.
The result is a relatively quiet room for voting in Borough Hall, where voters experience little to no wait time as they are directed to check in at a table designated for each of the individual precincts. Although a few voters expressed dissatisfaction that they and their elderly friends had only been notified of the changes by a sign posted at their regular polling place, most voters said they were pleased with the organization.
4:20 p.m. — Voter ID problems in Delaware County
NewsWorks reader Walter High offers a report of problems at Delaware County polls with the misstatement of ID requirements for first-time voters. (See 11:30 a.m. post further down for a similar earlier report from Strath Haven High School).
“My wife and I are new residents,” said High, a resident of Wayne, Pa., and first-time voter. “At our polling place [Wayne Presbyterian Church], we were told we must show photo ID to vote. Having just read the law, I offered recent utility bills and voter registration form in lieu of a photo ID. They told me that would not suffice. They did allow us to vote, once we showed them the law. But they noted that the county board had told them to use provisional ballots in earlier incidents.”
Pennsylvania’s Delaware County Election Bureau offerd conflicting responses to the incident.
The first person who answered the phone said first-time voters must present photo identification. That’s wrong. When we questioned that policy, our call was passed along to the voter registration office. There, we got the right answer:
“If you do not have a photo ID, you can use a non-photo identification that includes your name and address.”
This includes documents such as a current utility bill or paycheck. It’s still unclear what information poll workers in Delaware County were given, and if some first-time voters — without photo identification — were required to use a provisional ballot today. We’ve asked for clarification from the folks in the Delaware County’s public relations department, and we’re waiting to hear back.
“My concern of course it that the county has it wrong and that there are provisional ballots being cast that don’t need to be,” said High. “And more importantly, if they have been cast, they should be counted whether or not people make the effort to show up with ID at a later date.”
3:20 p.m. — NE Philadephia and suburbs
WHYY/NewsWorks’ Jeanette Woods sent in a report from northeast Philadelphia and the suburbs of Norristown and Glenside.
There were reports of numerous problems at the Norristown Public Library polling place. Many voters were showing up to vote who were not listed in the books. Poll workers were calling in to try and get confirmation of the voters eligibility so that they would be able to vote.
Poll workers said that slowed and crashing computers on the other end were hindering their ability to verify voters not listed in the books. One person who could not be verified was allowed to vote a provisional ballot. There were no allegations of intimidation or fraud.
Two Committee of 70 volunteers were stationed inside the voting area and had not seen any of the kinds of problems that were being reported in Philadelphia.
At that same polling place, a representative from the Obama campaign who said he had been confirmed as a poll watcher was asked to leave the polling area and informed by Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele that he did not have the proper credentials to be allowed in as a poll watcher.
There are reports that polling workers are asking voters to show ID but are not requiring it. Aichele said she was seeing voters coming with IDs ready. She stressed that she wanted “every eligible voter to be out today.”
Aichele said that her office had started receiving reports of polling place problems as early as yesterday.
In Glenside, volunteers were out in force, going door to door for Obama campaign.
Volunteer Samuel Brackeen was knocking on doors and encouraging anyone at home to vote. For those who were not in, he was leaving a reminder sticker. In the final hours, he said that his ground team was “targeting lost voters,” people who were still on the roles but had not voted in a while. Phone calls were followed up with door hangers, stickers and, finally, in-person visits.
At the tiny Ryerss polling place, judge of elections Peter Lavelle was busy, greeting voters, finding a large-print ballot for a woman with vision problems, explaining to a voter how to file a change-of-address form for an upcoming move.
The polling place, which serves 591 households, saw a steady stream of traffic. With only two booths and barely enough space to hold them and the poll workers, voters waited outside the door for their turn.
Lavalle, who was a Republican committee person prior to judge of elections, said that they were seeing good voter turnout and that there had been no problems. His poll workers were politely requesting IDs. “We had one person refuse,” said Lavalle.
Everyone else had ID ready, he said. “One guy ran to his truck to get his, even though we told him that was OK.”
Lavalle, a Romney supporter, said he is optimistic about his candidate’s chances. “I do think people will come out,” he said, adding that he felt the Republican Party was very energized.
3:15 p.m. — Watching and arguing at the polls
In Fairhill, one of Philadelphia’s poorest and most dependably Democratic-leaning neighborhoods, a polling place at Thomas Potter Elementary School became a debate stage for two union guys.
More and more, people on both sides of the aisle are at polling places simply to “watch” what happens.
The watchers are there to observe the election process as much as to watch each other — and, as they did at 6th and Indiana streets, argue.
“How could they tell a woman what they’re telling them? You believe that?” asked Lamont Woods, an Obama supporter sent to the polling place by his union, local 57 of Laborers International. “You got a mom and sister? I got a kid. I got a daughter.”
The person Woods was yelling at was also a union member, a Romney supporter named Mark who declined to give his last name. “I actually got two daughters, yeah,” said Mark.
Mark came down from his home in northeast Philadelphia after taking a “watching” course offered by the Romney campaign.
With many hours to pass during voting hours on Tuesday, the pair had much to discuss — often loudly.
“We’re out on roads, and we’re out on bridges — where they [republicans in Congress] can’t pass a jobs bill to put us back to work,” said Woods. “Can’t pass a jobs bill to help us?”
“If I could explain my belief,” said Mark, “I’d be more than happy to explain it, but I mean, are we really gonna change our minds at this point?”
“Nah, my mind is set,” said Woods.
“Exactly,” said Mark.
Both men say they won’t leave until the polls close.
2:50 p.m. — Election Day hot spot in NW Philadelphia
NewsWorks editor Brian Hickey is reporting on some Election Day flair from Relish, a restaurant in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane neighborhood. With Mayor Michael Nutter and state Sen. Anthony Williams on the scene, he says the lunch spot “has quietly usurped the Famous 4th St Deli as an Election Day coverage must.”
Nutter said voters should anticipate longer lines tonight. It takes 30 seconds to vote, he said. Stay at your polling place it you’re in line late.
“I’ve seen people wait in long lines for the lottery, especially when the Powerball is a big prize” said Nutter. “A long line is worth it to get four more years of a great president.”
Asked about the Barack Obama mural at a polling place in the city’s 35th Ward, Nutter said Judge John M. Younge made the right in ordering it to be covered up.
He called the mural a “slightly less than subliminal message,” even though it wasn’t painted for electioneering purposes.
1:35 p.m. — Court rulings on Phila. polling places
Common Pleas Judge John M. Younge has ordered that a mural depicting President Barack Obama at a Philadelphia polling place be covered up in its entirety.
Voting booths are set up directly in front of the mural at Franklin School in the city’s 35th Ward. Linda A. Kerns, of the Pennsylvania State Republican Committee submitted the petition.
An update on the struggles of GOP poll watchers in Philadelphia:
Younge has issued a court order allowing all certified minority inspectors into Philadelphia polling places, and deputies from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department will be dispatched to enforce this new court order.
Earlier, WHYY/NewsWorks’ Emma Jacobs reported: The Philadelphia Republican Party leaders sent out 300 minority-party site inspectors — armed with court orders — to polling places that traditionally haven’t had any.
These volunteers were sent out to look for voter fraud. As many as 75 may have been initially turned away from the polling places where they’d been dispatched. Republican ward leaders and attorneys are going between polling places to moderate — say they’re encountering some tensions.
Denise Furey, a Republican ward leader in West Philadelphia, said it took four trips to the firehouse at 56th and Chestnut before her site inspector was seated.
She said the situation has been politically charged but attributed most of it to confusion on the part of Democratic poll workers who aren’t used to seeing Republican site inspectors come in at all.
NewsWorks’ Brian Hickey, who’s all over the map today checking out election doings, reports that U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, never a fan of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, proved it today:
“Fattah did not bring ID when he voted today. Was told he’d need to in future elections. When I asked him about it after voting, he argued that having voted for Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama in ‘a place where the neighbors know you,’ and signing a book stating you are who you say you are ‘should be sufficient.'”
When Republican poll watchers venture into some heavily Democratic wards in Philadelphia on Election Day, they see the dardnest things.
The Republican State Committee just circulated via email, without comment, a photo of what it says is a polling place at Ben Franklin Elementary School in Lawncrest, where the wall of the all-purpose room where balloting is taking place today features a huge color mural of Barack Obama, with the words “Hope” and “Change” and Obama’s 2008 campaign logo.
Yes, on a day when some voters are getting hassled for wearing T-shirts with campaign slogans to the polls, it would have been nice is somone had thought to cover up the mural for the election.
A report from WHYY/NewsWorks’ Alan Tu in Mercer County:
At mid-morning, cars were circling around the designated parking for a temporary polling station set up on Princeton University’s campus.
Seven voting districts that affected by power outages from last week’s storm have been relocated to the Jadwin Gym on campus. That’s producing more voters more than the parking lot could handle.
Inside the entrance of Jadwin Gym Linda Koepplin, watching over District 2 as an election observer, said this was not the usual voting location. “Our normal polling place was without electricity. This is all a direct result of the hurricane.” she said.
Turnout has been strong at Jadwin Gym.
Our Peter Crimmins’ had some interesting chats with voters in South Philly this morning. He reports:
Sean Faulkner of South Philadelphia was one of those undecided voters you hear so much about. Through months of campaigning, he was not sure where to cast his vote. He decided just last night.
“I tend to vote on economic first, and then social issues,” he said. “I really had to look at social issues. Gay rights, women’s right was a real big one for me. Those were two issues i really haad to look at.
In a predominately Democratic neighborhood, a Republican who is voting for Romney didn’t want to give his name but would give his opinion on the campaign:
“It was a well-run fight. I think they were a bit too courteous. Mitt Romney was a little too courteous with his approach. He could have used a lot more derogatory implications against Obama. He could have hit harder.”
Two Obama voters in South Philly admited that, compared to 2008, the thrill is gone.
Andrew Miller said he voted for Obama with reservations:
“I didn’t see Obama as someone who was going to radically change the system of what we had. I was hoping he would have done more about the finance industry. I was disappointed in the way the bailout had been regulated. “I’m not as excited [as in 2008],” Sarah Schol said. “I’m not as excited. I don’t think he’s running on the premise of excitement anymore. He’s running on, ‘Let’s continue what we started.’ It feels more somber, because we have so much more work to do.”
And here’s another little voting tip: Watch what you wear to go vote. Twitter is alive with reports that would-be voters are getting lectures at some polling places about wearing T-shirts with legends such as “Romnesia” or “Nobama.”
They are being deemed by some election judges to be “electioneering,” which is forbidden inside the polling place.
What would the ruling be on a “Rage Against the Machine” T-shirt?
From Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, a sad reminder of why our national elections matter so much.
The base reports that the bodies of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan will be arriving at the base today, Election Day.
They are Army Sgt. Brett E. Gornewicz of Alden, N.Y., and Specialist Ryan P. Jayne of Corning, New York.
Our condolences go out to the families and loved ones of these two soldiers.
And from Wallingford, in Delaware County, Pa., comes a sign that the long, loud, late-ending fight over Pennsylvania’s new but suspended photographic voter ID law is spawning plenty of confusion this Election Day.
Lucas Best he went with three friends to vote at Strath Haven High School. Several of them were first-time voters at this polling place, and thus were asked to provide some proof of residence – whether a driver’s license or a non-photographic document such as a utility bill.
Best said he had some ID, but his group was generally surprised because “what you took away from all the news reports was that ID wasn’t required.” A Pennsylvania judge suspended implementation of the photo ID requirement for this election, but poll workers are still supposed to ask for it, as a kind of practice run.
But the most pertinent fact is this: If you’re new to a polling place, you DO have to supply some kind of identification; it just doesn’t have to be photographic.
Best advice: If you’ve got any form of ID, don’t leave home without it. Bring it to the polling place today.
10:17 a.m. — A ‘messy’ start in Philadelphia
Stephanie Singer, chair of the Philadelphia city commissioners, just disputed the Committee of Seventy’s claim that the election is off to a messy start in the city.
She told Newsworks’ Dave Davies that it’s been “relatively quiet” in terms of problems and complaints.
From a polling place in Germantown, NewsWorks’ Brian Hickey reports the canard about straight-ticket voting not counting for president is being discussed by people in line. A ward leader tried to supplies the correct information. (See 9 a.m. post below).
“It’s looking like a messy election.”
That’s from Zack Stalberg, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, the city election watchdog.
Here’s the Committee’s first update on the day, based on reports from its volunteers on the phones and at the polls.
* Election Court is dealing with a host of minority (Republican) inspectors being denied access to their polling places in Philadelphia. (WHYY/NewsWorks’ Benjamin Herold reports this was an issue at the Guerin Recreation Center polling place (Ward 48, Division 13) in South Philly.
* The New Black Panthers reportedly showed up, though no one can find them now. Reports were that they were outside a polling place at 11th and Germantown streets. (NewsWorks’ attempts to find this activity or confirm it have so far not been successful.) Update: Committee of Seventy also reports no luck finding any sign of New Black Panther activity. (For background on who they are and why it matters, see 9 a.m. post below.) Also, reports are the Mayor Nutter himself went to the area to check out the report and found nothing.
* There are “You need a photo ID to vote” signs at a number of polling places. Seventy has asked the City Commissioners to have Judges of Elections take those signs down immediately. . You don’t need a photo ID to vote today in Pennsylvania, though elections officials are supposed to ask you if you have one.
* A polling place at 7th and Cayoga Streets – in the city’s Latino area – has numerous voters who do not speak English – and reportedly no interpreter in sight.
Here are a few updates from our Northwest Philadephia news team:
One of the two voting machines at Allens Lane Art Center in Mt. Airy was broken when polls opened this morning. He says a technician was on the way and the line was moving more smoothly by 8 a.m.
Turnout was heavy early today at the Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown today. NewsWorks contributor Kiera Smalls talked to some in line who said they were going to leave and come back later to vote.
Ruby Payette, a young first-time voter from Mount Airy in Philadelphia, summed up the emotions of a lot of people on this anxious day as America elects a president: “I’ve been talking to some friends that I know are voting for opposing parties from me,” she said. “I’m kinda scared, but at the same time excited. Because I get to have a say in my president.”
From Deptford, N.J., WHYY/NewsWorks’ Tom MacDonald reports:
At the three polling places inside the old public works building, the morning traffic was brisk. Not a huge turnout but a steady stream. The mood was excited and friendly, and coloring books were being handed out to children who were waiting in line with their parents.
Early reports to the Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia election watchdog group, indicated a number of Republican poll watchers have reported problems getting access to polling places or being treated rudely by election workers. A number of cases have been referred to today’s Election Court.
Also, there is a report of members of the New Black Panthers Party allegedly intimidating voters in a polling place on Germantown Avenue east of Broad Street. An incident in 2008 at a Spring Garden Street polling place involving members of this group became a national cause celebre, as some conservatives claimed it showed the Obama Justice Department was slow to pursue complaints of intimidation against Republican voters.
The Committee of Seventy is also hearing numerous complaints that voters are being told they need to produce photo identification to vote. A new state law requiring voters to show photo ID was suspended for this election by a Pennsylvania judge, who said the state hadn’t done enough to help people obtain the needed ID.
The committee also put out an alert about an email being distributed around Philadelphia that tells people, falsely, that pulling a straight Democratic Party lever in the voting booth will not register as a vote for President Obama. This is not true. Straight party votes for either the Republican or Democratic parties will register a voter for the party’s presidential nominee.
Here are a few key phone numbers to keep close by today:
To report problems or ask questions about voting in storm-tossed New Jersey, call 877-NJVOTER (877-658-6837). That is the official state line.
To find your polling place in New Jersey, and some were shifted due to the storm, use the New Jersey Department of State site.
The New Jersey League of Women Voters also has an informational hotline: 800-792-VOTE.
In Philadelphia, to report issues, you can call the Committee of Seventy hotline, at 866-OURVOTE.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has provided two numbers for reporting incidents of voter intimidation: 215-686-9641 and 215-686-9643. Philly DA Williams providing these numbers for voters to report allegations of intimidation.
In Philadelphia, the number to call to report a malfunctioning voting machine is 215-686-1590.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the number to contact state election officials to report problems is 717-787-5280.
To find your polling place in Pennsylvania, use this site.
In Delaware, the number is 877-270-8300 Delaware Commissioner of Elections
Also in New Jersey, the New Jersey News Collaborative has set up a line to create a crowd-sourced running report of how things are going at the polls. The number is 732-903-VOTE. You can also report issues on Twitter using the hashtag #NJVote, or post your reports on an online mapping tool at NJVote.crowdmap.com.
It’s important to keep in mind that these News Collaborative tools are only informational; using them does not put you in touch with official election authorities.
Reporting from Carolyn Beeler, Peter Crimmins, Mark Eichmann, Elizabeth Fiedler, Benjamin Herold, Brian Hickey, Emma Jacobs, Tara Nurin, Holly Otterbein, Eugene Sonn, Alan Tu and Jeanette Woods.