MELISSA BLOCK, host:
As we mentioned, the mechanics of voting have been cranking along relatively smoothly but there have been some problems reported at polling sites around the country. There have been malfunctioning voting machines, long lines, confusion over I.D. rules as well as misleading phone calls and flyers.
NPR's Pam Fessler is with us. She's covering voting issues and Pam, what are some of the main problems you've been hearing about today?
PAM FESSLER: Well I'd say the number one problem has been delayed openings, mostly because of malfunctions with machines. Some people reported waiting on line for an hour or more while the poll workers got the machines up and running. There were eight polling places, for example, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where they eventually actually had to abandon the touch screen machines and have voters use paper ballots instead. There was also a precinct in Broward County, Florida that was three hours late before it got up and running, and they didn't have any paper ballots to give people and some people were turned away.
We're also hearing reports about voters having problems with some of the machines themselves. They might press one candidate's name on a touch screen machine and it looks like it's registering somebody else's name. These are calibration problems which we've seen before. Usually they can fix them at the polls, but not always.
BLOCK: A number of states have new rules this year on identification that voters need and that is causing some problems. What are you hearing there?
FESSLER: That's right. As predicted, there's been quite a bit of confusion about some of the I.D. rules, just what identification voters have to have. And to me one of the most extraordinary stories came out of Missouri where the state's chief election official, Robin Carnahan, was told that she needed to show photo I.D. to cast her ballot. And she kept telling the officials no, we don't need that because the court struck down Missouri's I.D. rule but they kept saying no, we've been told we have to ask you to show your I.D.
And there have been reports in lots of other states such as Georgia and Ohio of voters who are being asked to show I.D. that they don't in fact have to show, and some of the voting rights advocates' groups are concerned that people aren't getting to vote who should be able to vote. Some of these groups are also saying that they're getting a lot of calls who think that they're registered to vote, they go to the polling place, their name's not on the list. They should be given a provisional ballot to vote but that's not always happening.
BLOCK: I think Chelsea Clinton falls in that category this year. There have also been a lot of reports about last-minute dirty tricks.
FESSLER: That's right. We have heard a lot of those this year. A lot of people saying that they've been getting phone calls, last minute phone calls telling them to go to the wrong precinct or telling them that if they are registered somewhere else they might get arrested if they go to the polling place in their state. In fact things got so bad in the state of Virginia that the State Board of Elections has asked the FBI to come in and investigate.
There've also been reports about misleading fliers. There's one in Maryland that Democrats are very upset about. It's called the Official Voter Guide and it's being distributed in predominantly African American communities and it indicates that several leading black Democrats have endorsed the Republican governor for reelection even though they have not.
BLOCK: If you look broadly at these problems overall, how damaging are the things that are going on today?
FESSLER: Well quite frankly, the problems don't seem to be quite as bad as some people had feared or predicted. Of course, you know, we don't know how it's going to ultimately turn out. I mean, obviously for each of the voters involved any kind of obstacle is a big problem and a big concern. Nobody wants to have their votes not counted or be prevented from casting a ballot.
But really until we see how close some of these races are, we will not know how significant some of these irregularities might be in the outcome or whether or not they might form the basis of some legal challenge.
BLOCK: Pam, you've been following for some time the Help America Vote Act that was passed. The idea was to make it easier. Is the sense among people who follow these things that it's actually worked?
FESSLER: Not yet. I think they think that we still have a lot of kinks to work out and that some things are easier but some things are still not.
BLOCK: Okay. Thanks a lot, Pam.
FESSLER: That's NPR's Pam Fessler.
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