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Voting Issues: Long Lines In Florida, Confusion In New Jersey

Voters line up to cast a ballot in Crawfordville, Fla.
Mark Wallheiser
Getty Images
Voters line up to cast a ballot in Crawfordville, Fla.

As the voting day has progressed, we've seen some reports of irregularities.. Throughout the day, we'll be surveying our reporters and other news organizations and keep track of significant irregularities in this post.

So far, the big problem has been long lines. Some voters have had to wait hours in line to cast their ballot in battleground states like Florida and Virginia and those affected by Superstorm Sandy like New York.

We'll start with Florida:

In the Sunshine State some voters have waited up to three hours to cast their ballots. The Miami Herald is reporting some dramatic cases in which voters have refused to leave the line despite fainting and in the case of one man suffering a seizure while filling out his ballot.

At the Miami-Dade election headquarters in El Doral, the paper spoke to one woman who was in line holding a catheter bag.

You may remember that long lines and chaos plagued Florida's early voting. What's causing the long lines? It appears that it's the length of the ballot.

ProPublica reports that the ballot includes 11 constitutional amendments:

"Backed by Republican state lawmakers, the proposed amendments among other things seek to prohibit requiring individuals or businesses to purchase or provide health care as specified under the Affordable Care Act, prohibit public funding for abortion except in certain circumstances, and allow public funding for religious organizations.

"Unlike citizen-led ballot initiatives, which require court approval and are bound to a mere 75 words, legislative amendments face no such restrictions – in either word length or quantity."

One amendment — which proposes tax breaks for owners of vacation homes — comes in at 640 words.

If voters haven't done their homework, they have to read their way through a ballot that in some counties is 12 pages long.

In Other States:

Long lines were also a problem. The Washington Post reports that in battleground Virginia, the lines were so long that people were late for work.

"In New Hampshire, voters struggled to find parking spaces and were anticipating long wait times in lines," the paper reported.

The New York Times reports, "the combination of the storm and heavy turnout yielded long lines, confusion, frustration and anger" in the city.

In New Jersey:

Because of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie authorized the use of fax and email voting.

But the Newark Star-Ledger reports that some voters who requested ballots through those methods never received them.

Perhaps most problematic, however, is that when the state announced the new provisions, they did not mention that those people voting by email or fax also need to send a hardcopy via mail.

The Star-Ledger reports that one expert thinks email voting could lead to problems:

"'You must have a paper ballot backup,' said Penny Venetis, a professor at Rutgers University School of Law in Newark. 'What's puzzling is that the lieutenant governor's directives allow Internet voting without requiring this protection that is necessary to ensure the integrity of the vote.'

"Voters using the e-mail option still must print, sign and scan a physical ballot, then send it to their county clerk via email. But hackers can forge those ballots or signatures, send in fraudulent votes and then erase their tracks online, said Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University."

In Pinellas County, Fla.:

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office mistakenly made robocalls that told voters they had until 7 p.m. "tomorrow" to turn in mail-in ballots.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

"But that is wrong. Polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Any ballots turned in after that time won't be accepted.

"The calls went out between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. because of a glitch with the SOE's phone system. ...

"About 12,000 calls, however, didn't get through, said SOE spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock. They were stored in a queue and recycled Tuesday morning. The 'tomorrow' in the message meant for Monday was incorrect when it was delivered."

The SOE told the paper that they stopped sending out calls as soon as they noticed the problem.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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