WASHINGTON – Voters in key states such as Florida and Virginia waited in long lines hours after polls closed Tuesday night to cast ballots as politicians and their supporters urged them not to give up despite the long delays.
Candidates turned to social media to encourage voters through the long wait. “#StayInLine #StayInLine #StayInLine” Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin tweeted. The three states allow voters who were in line when polls closed to cast ballots.
High turnout rather than glitches or problems appeared to be the cause of the long lines, but there were plenty of other problems around the country. Many were in Pennsylvania, including a confrontation involving Republican inspectors over access to some polls and a voting machine that lit up for Republican Mitt Romney even when a voter pressed the button for President Barack Obama.
One Florida elections office mistakenly told voters in robocalls the election was on Wednesday.
The Election Protection coalition of civil rights and voting access groups said they had gotten more than 80,000 complaints and questions on a toll-free voter protection hotline.
“The calls have been hot and heavy all day long,” said Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Aside from the lines and other scattered problems with voter access and machine failures, there didn’t appear to be any wholesale disenfranchisement of voters, few tense confrontations among poll monitors and no major instances of election fraud.
Still, Election Day was far from glitch-free. And voters faced a whole different set of challenges in parts of New York and New Jersey ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.
In Philadelphia, the Republican Party said 75 legally credentialed voting inspectors were blocked from polling places in the heavily Democratic city, prompting the GOP to obtain a court order providing them access. Local prosecutors were also looking into the reports. Democratic Party officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Pennsylvania was also the scene of what a state Common Cause official called “widespread” confusion over voter ID requirements. The state this year enacted a new photo ID requirement, but it was put on hold for Tuesday’s election by a judge amid concern many voters would not be able to comply in time.
The battleground state of Ohio was the scene of yet another court battle, this one involving a lawsuit claiming voting software installed by the state could allow manipulation of ballots by people not connected to official election boards. A judge, however, flatly dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop use of the software.
Elsewhere, the Election Protection coalition reported problems with ballot scanners in the Ohio cities of Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo; late-opening polling places in minority neighborhoods in Galveston, Texas; and some precincts in the Tampa, Fla., area where voters were redirected to another polling place where they must cast a provisional ballot.
Meanwhile, voters in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey expressed relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation from Superstorm Sandy. Lines were long in Point Pleasant, N.J., where residents from the Jersey Shore communities of Point Pleasant Beach and Mantoloking had to cast their ballots due to damage in their hometowns.
The Justice Department had about 780 observers at key polling places in 23 states to ensure compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and look into any allegations of voter fraud.