As Voting Challenges Loom, Some Optimism
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Well, tomorrow about a hundred million people could go to the polls. That's in addition to the tens of millions who've already cast their ballots. With record turnout expected, people are bracing for problems. But there's also some cause for optimism, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.
(Soundbite of phone ringing)
PAM FESSLER: The phones have been ringing nonstop at an Election Protection call center in Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of voters have already sought help. Some say their names weren't on the rolls when they went to vote early. Others have yet to receive an absentee ballot. Some are confused.
(Soundbite of Election Protection call center)
Ms. CHARLOTTE HAYS(ph) (Attorney; Volunteer, Election Protection): You are registered to vote, and your question is where to vote?
(Soundbite of phone ringing)
Ms. HAYS: OK, hold on a minute. Let me check and see.
FESSLER: Attorney Charlotte Hays is one of the thousands of volunteers working with a coalition of voting rights groups trying to answer the questions. The group will have teams of lawyers in the field tomorrow to fix problems on the spot. Jon Greenbaum is with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. His concerns run the gamut from excessively long lines to machine breakdowns to misinformed poll workers.
Mr. JON GREENBAUM (Director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law): In addition to that, we're concerned about there being intimidation at or around the polls, deceptive practices that tell voters intentionally wrong information about the elections.
FESSLER: And those reports have already popped up. Voters in Pittsburgh say they've received calls telling them that Democrats have to wait until Wednesday to cast a ballot. Voters in Colorado and Florida have reported calls saying they can vote by phone, even though they can't. The advocacy group Common Cause has countered with its own calls, including a message to voters from actor Danny Glover.
(Soundbite of recorded call message)
Mr. DANNY GLOVER (Actor): We heard there are people in your area that might be trying to confuse you, to keep you from voting on Election Day. If you get a flier saying things like "Election Day has changed" or "You can't vote if you have parking tickets," don't believe it.
FESSLER: That said, many voting advocates and election officials say most voters should encounter few problems. Lines will be long, but there will also be many more polling places than there were during early voting. Other potential problems have been defused in recent days.
Mr. MICHAEL WALDMAN (Executive Director, Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law): It really does look as if most of the efforts to knock people off the rolls will not come to fruition.
FESSLER: Michael Waldman is executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.
Mr. WALDMAN: Voters at this point can expect that if they are eligible, are registered, that they'll be able to go to the polls and vote.
FESSLER: There had been predictions that hundreds of thousands of voters might find, otherwise, that their names would be mistakenly purged. That's still likely for some people, but several court decisions and settlements have dramatically reduced the potential impact in states such as Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, and Florida. Rosemary Rodriguez, chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, says she's also encouraged that many election offices seem to have good contingency plans such as spare voting machines already loaded on trucks.
Ms. ROSEMARY RODRIGUEZ (Chairwoman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission): So that they can rush in and replace a machine that breaks. A number of states have printed emergency ballots, and those are being maintained. And they're ready to be voted if for some reason the lines are too long.
FESSLER: She thinks, over all, tomorrow will be a good day. But many voting rights advocates remain worried. They don't think there are enough paper ballots available, and they fear if the vote is close, even minor glitches will have huge implications. Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.
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