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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

US Presidential Election 2008 – the First Casualty

A voter hotline set up by CNN to monitor polling problems received 56,000 calls, 22,000 of them being complaints. The most common problems concerned voter registration, absentee ballots going astray and voting machine malfunctions.

With the stakes high, there were reports of dirty tricks and legal battles, as well as what is now customary chaos at American polling stations. Voter intimidation, faulty machines, late poll openings, missing ballot papers and even the rain brought problems.

Police in Philadelphia were called to a polling booth where two members of the black power group the Black Panthers guarded the door, one of them armed with a knight stick, intimidating voters. One of the men was told to leave.

The voter who called the police said that one of the men told him: "A black man is going to win the election. We're tired of white supremacy."

Observers elsewhere in Pennsylvania complained of "pandemonium" where Republican poll watchers, whose job is to monitor the integrity of the voting, were apparently removed from polling sites in direct violation of a recent state court ruling.

In Virginia both Republicans and Democrats launched lawsuits. John McCain's campaign demanded a 10 day extension to the counting of absentee ballots to ensure all overseas military ballots are counted. A judge rejected Democrat calls for more voting machines to cope with higher turnout in black areas.

In several states, election officials ruled that anyone in line when the polls close would be allowed to vote, causing the counts to drag on for hours.

Democratic voters in Toledo, Ohio, reported receiving automated robocalls designed to keep them at home. The calls warned that voting lines were long and that they could express their preference using their telephone key pad instead.

In Florida, where officials have fought to escape their reputation as an international laughing stock after the Bush-Gore recount debacle eight years ago, there were still problems, with papers rejected by the counting machines when voters failed to fill in details on the reverse of their ballots.

Electoral officials were unable to set up a polling station at a church in Tallahassee, the state capital, because they couldn't wake up the pastor. A sheriff's deputy had to drive up to his house and blast his car siren to wake him up.

There was also evidence of voter fraud. Tampa resident Michael Baccich, 57, was one of several voters who arrived to vote only to be told that he had already cast an absentee ballot.

Voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio were only given half a ballot paper, causing their votes to be void. New voting machines also went down in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Cleveland, Ohio. In New Hampshire the State Republican Committee went to court complaining that their poll workers were kept away from new voter registration tables, making it impossible for them to check that people were properly registered.

A blast of rain sweeping up the East coast disrupted voting in Virginia and North Carolina, key election bellwethers. In Chesapeake County, Virginia, voters drenched in the squall were asked to dry off first after their optical vote scanner was unable to read damp ballot papers.

Thousands had their wet papers quarantined in separate bins while they dried out before officials scanned them in again.

In Kansas City, Missouri, officials were operating for several hours with the wrong set of registration papers making it difficult to check whether voters had the right to cast their ballots.

Eight years after he left the White House and seven months after she abandoned her own presidential bid, Bill and Hillary Clinton remained at the eye of the storm. Mrs Clinton attracted complaints for conducting an interview within feet of the polling booths, a violation of election law that bans electioneering 100 feet of voter booths.

Extracted from Telegraph

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