Pennsylvania: Faulty machines, closed polls in black neighborhoods

Problems for black voters in Pittsburgh.

Rebecca Traister
November 8, 2006 1:23AM (UTC)

An update on some of the polling problems being reported around Pittsburgh:

Tanya Clay House is the policy director for People for the American Way and the legal coordinator for the vote-monitoring group Election Protection for Allegheny County, a county of 1.3 million that includes Pittsburgh. She told Salon that when monitors arrived at polling places in Allegheny County early this morning, they found machines not working and voting delayed in many locations. Many polling places weren't open, House said, "because a lot of the machines were not working properly. Poll workers weren't able to get a zero count when they started the machines." That means that officials couldn't verify that the machines were secure and did not already have votes in them. House said she received these complaints from about 15 precincts in mixed and predominantly African-American communities. Polls were supposed to open at 7 a.m., but as a result of the problems with machines, some poll openings were delayed to as late as 8:30 and 9, leading some voters to give up and go home.


House said that her organization was extremely frustrated that stymied voters were not given alternative means of casting their votes. "It's very disheartening, because you have voters not even allowed to vote on provisional ballots," she said.

House said her organization had also been hearing of other voting snafus, specifically from voters reporting that machines are not giving them full ballots. At first, House said, these complaints were sporadic and random, but they have increased. "Voters are calling and saying that the screens are not showing the [Rick Santorum vs. Bob Casey Jr.] Senate race. They're saying that they're not showing the [Ed Rendell vs. Lynn Swann] governor's race, that they're not showing some of the district races. That could be faulty calibrations of the machines."

House said that while her organization is "possibly" considering legal action, "right now it's too early to tell." What they're trying to do now, she said, is let frustrated voters know that "most of the machines are working now. We want to tell people to come back and vote."

Anyone experiencing voting problems can call the election protection hot line at 866-OUR-VOTE.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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