- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Computer problems and distribution of incorrect poll closing time information led at least two states to extend voting hours Tuesday, accounting for just a few of the numerous voter access problems and irregularities reported on Election Day.

While officials decided to keep some precincts open longer in North Carolina and New Hampshire, in Nevada the Trump campaign unsuccessfully challenged the extension of early-voting hours. A Nevada judge rejected the Republican presidential candidate’s request Tuesday for records from a Las Vegas polling place that the campaign said had improperly extended early voting hours.

Voter protection hotlines received complaints from across the country that ranged from reports of voter intimidation to technical voting machine malfunctions.

“What we’ve observed is an uptick in the number of complaints of voter intimidation and voter harassment,” said Kristin Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is taking longer for our officials to resolve the issues reported.”

More than 30,000 calls were received by the Election Protection hotline by 6 p.m., hotline officials said.

Many of the reported problems were routine hiccups that tend to plague presidential election with heavy voter turnout — such as long lines, machines not working properly and issues with ballots or voter rolls.

Several Durham County, North Carolina, precincts reported computer problems that forced them to turn to paper ballots, and some ran out of paper forms, effectively bringing voting to a halt. The North Carolina State Board of Elections agreed to extend voting by between 20 minutes and an hour in eight precincts after officials described how the malfunctions led to delays in some precincts of up to 2 hours during which no votes could be cast. Polls had been set to close across North Carolina at 7:30 p.m.

Polls stayed open an extra hour in Dover, New Hampshire, after the city mistakenly sent an email to voters that included an incorrect closing time.

Other reports were based on what appeared to be more nefarious behavior.

Philadelphia Republican City Committee Chairman Joseph DeFelice said he’s received at least 40 reports of Democrat party-sponsored poll workers turning away Republican-sponsored workers.

“These officials are appointed by election board officials that are supposed to help man the polling place,” Mr. DeFelice said. “They are not even getting in the door.”

As a result of being challenged by fellow workers, Mr. DeFelice said many of those poll workers went home. Several Republican-sponsored poll watchers and election workers that have gotten inside polling places in the city have reported improper electioneering, such as poll workers accompanying voters into booths and making selections on behalf of voters, he said.

More than half of the voter-intimidation calls received Tuesday morning by the Election Protection hotline came from Pennsylvania, where there have been widespread reports of poll workers asking voters for ID, officials said. There are no photo ID requirements in the state.

Melanie L. Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said there had been at least one report from Florida of individuals driving around in the back of a pickup truck with Confederate flags outside of a polling place in an effort to intimidate minority voters.

Election monitors have bolstered their efforts to watch out for voter access issues this year as the Justice Department has had to scale back its own monitoring program on account of the 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

During the first presidential election in recent years without those Voting Rights Act safeguards, advocates feared the effects of new voter ID laws as well as actions by unofficial poll watchers could discourage voter participation.

Among the other issues reported across the country, an unofficial poll watcher who claimed to be at the St. Paul AME Church polling place in Jacksonville, Florida, on behalf of a political party refused to leave the poll. Declining to cite the person’s political affiliation, Ms. Clarke said officials were able to bring the issue to authorities’ attention and to get the unauthorized watcher removed from the inside of the polling place.

Reports streamed in from voters in predominately black precincts in Franklin County, Ohio, who encountered signs near polling places that declared “voter fraud is a crime,” according to Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

Also in Florida, Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, said there have been reports of “a lack of language access for Spanish-speaking voters.”

Ms. Browne Dianis said there was a report of police officers inside a St. Louis elementary school that is being used as a polling place. She said the issue had been addressed.

The Lawyer’s Committee expects the Election Protection hotline to handle more than 175,000 calls through early voting and Election Day, and officials said efforts to raise voters’ awareness of their rights appear to have paid off in some areas.

After poll workers at Beltswater Community Center in Richmond, Virginia, told inactive voters they would have to use a provisional ballot, several voters stepped in to intercede. In Virginia inactive voters can vote if they appear at the polls and confirm that they have not moved, according to the Virginia Board of Elections.

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