In Philly, it’s looking ‘messy’ at the polls – or is it?

    Election Day voting is in full swing on this sunny, chilly day – despite the damage from superstorm Sandy and the confusion sowed by Pennsylvania’s long fight over voter ID.  Check here all day for reports on turnout, problems at the polls and anecdotes of democracy in action.

    10:17 a.m. 

    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.  Ward leader tries to supplies correct info. (See 9 a.m. post below).

    9:38 a.m.

    “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.”

     

    9:20 a.m.

    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.

    9 a.m.

    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.

    8 a.m.

    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.

     

     

     

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