FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 5, 2008
Jonah Goldman (703) 201–5586
Justin Levitt (323) 365–9773
Nationwide Summary of Calls
February 5, 2008
Overall, Election Protection received over 2,647 calls to the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline on February 5, 2008. Administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and representing a coalition of national, state and local non-partisan not for profit organizations committed to protecting the rights of all eligible voters to cast a ballot, the Election Protection hotline had over 500 legal volunteers on hand this Election Day, answering over 70 phone lines in 5 call centers from coast to coast. Legal volunteers assisted voters on the phones and at the polling place.
Once again, Election Protection has painted a complete picture of the experience of American voters from their perspective. While election officials and poll workers worked valiantly, a disturbing number of eligible voters were disenfranchised due to poor administration and insufficient resources. Americans came out in record numbers to exercise their fundamental right to vote; unfortunately, in many jurisdictions, the infrastructure of our elections weren’t up for this historic challenge.
Across the country, properly registered voters were left off of voter registration rolls forcing them to vote provisional ballots, uncertain if they will count. In every state targeted by Election Protection partners, voters called to complain of poll workers who were misinformed or under trained causing myriad problems at the polling place, leading to eligible voters being disenfranchised. Poor ballot design and problems with voting machines continue to lead to voters being turned away without casting a ballot, and polling place breakdowns and poor planning continue to cause long lines forcing voters to choose between exercising the most fundamental right and other, essential responsibilities.
February 5 has made clear that we all have a lot of work to do before Election Day on November 4 to ensure that all eligible voters have a real opportunity to cast a ballot that counts for the candidates of their choice.
Over the coming days and weeks Election Protection will be delving further into the data collected on February 5, and the primaries to come, and working with election officials to guarantee that all eligible voters have an opportunity to cast a ballot in November. Below are some specific examples of the problems voters faced from across the country:
- Many voters, both long time and recent registrants, who showed up to the correct precinct but were not on the voter registration rolls.
- Multiple polling places in Maricopa County reported waits of over two hours.
- A voter who had recently moved, and who had recently re-registered at his new address, went to the polls and presented a driver’s license with his old address. He was asked to vote a provisional ballot; that vote will only count if he is able to drive an hour and a half to the county recorder’s office with two different forms of proof of residency.
A total of 1,280 calls were made to the Election Protection hotline from California.
- The call center assisted over 400 California voters in locating their polling places on election day.
- A poll worker in Baldwin Park was going down a long line of voters demanding they show identification before they could vote, despite no identification being required.
- The call center received many calls indicating problems in correctly accommodating voters unaffiliated with any party. These voters were eligible to vote in the open Democratic and American Independent Primaries. However, many such voters were refused a ballot for these open primaries. Other voters, particularly in Los Angeles, were not instructed to fill in a confusing extra bubble indicating their choice of party primary, which is necessary to ensure their ballot is counted.
- A number of callers have indicated that they are registered in one party, but the registration rolls indicate they are unaffiliated voters or affiliated with a different party. While this phenomenon has not been limited to Republicans, Republican voters seemed to report this problem most frequently.
- Voters report continued confusion over registration procedures and registration validity.
- Voters reported concern that optical scan machines intended to check ballots were not counting their ballots correctly.
- Callers have reported that they did not receive the vote-by-mail ballots they previously requested.
- At one polling place, a pollworker challenged a student voter’s right to vote and refused to issue a regular ballot because the pollworker asserted that the voter no longer lived at the address the voter used for voter registration.
- Broken voting equipment or other related machinery has been reported in some precincts.
- In Oxnard, a polling place did not have the voter registration roll for any voter with a name beginning with “M” or later in the alphabet. All voters with a last name beginning with “M” or later were being instructed to vote by provisional ballot.
- Several polling places opened late, making it difficult for working voters to vote prior to going to work and creating confusion for voters.
- Voters have reported long lines at a polling place in Long Beach.
There were over 900 calls made to Election Protection by Georgia voters, as well as an additional 300 calls during the advanced voting period.
- Some long lines were caused by a shortage of systems used to check in voters and problems with new computerized poll books; though there were a sufficient number of voting machines in most precincts, voters experienced bottlenecks waiting to check in.
- The majority of calls were from voters asking about their registration status, their poll location, and what kind of photo ID was required.
- A number of voters reported intimidation concerns caused by roving roadblocks and in one case by an armed Secretary of State elections investigator who was in a precinct.
- There were scattered reports of voters being issued an incorrect ballot. In some cases, the problem was resolved, in other cases, the machine appeared to cast the incorrect ballot and the problem was not resolved.
- Many voters showed up to vote, believed they were registered, and in some cases had received confirmation of their registration, but were told they were not on the rolls.
There were 136 inquiries from Illinois. Forty-four of those inquiries were from Cook County.
- The overwhelming majority of calls involved a request for a polling place location.
- Some individuals were asked to show identification when identification was not required; one individual witnessed other voters being turned away for not having ID.
- There were several reports about electioneering close to the polls, or about pollworkers encouraging individuals to vote for particular candidates.
- There were several reports about difficulties obtaining ballots for minor-party (in particular, Green Party) primaries.
- At least one polling place opened late, which prevented a caller from voting because he works an hour away from the polling place.
Election Protection received over 350 calls from New York voters.
- Across the city, longtime voters are showing up at the polls to find that their names are not on the registration rolls. In one location in Brooklyn, for example, many voters who had been living and voting in the same spot for over 20 years were told they could not vote by regular ballot because their names did not appear on the rolls.
- There have been voting machine failures in a number of districts across the city, including Bushwick in Brooklyn, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Midtown, West Harlem, and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and areas of the Bronx.
- Where machines have broken down, poll workers have become confused about proper procedures, and have distributed affidavit ballots to voters instead of emergency paper ballots In other cases, they have placed emergency paper ballots in affidavit envelopes, increasing the chances that eligible voters’ votes will not be counted. In one location, poll workers were entering the voting booths to try to fix machines while the voters were still in there attempting to vote, and at another location, poll workers handed out paper ballots that were already filled in.
- Many New Yorkers who tried to change their party enrollment before the voter registration deadline on January 11, 2008 - but after October 26, 2007 – discovered that, under state law, they were not allowed to vote in their new party’s primary today. Instead, their new affiliation will not take effect until after the November 2008 general election.