A late night in Pennsylvania

State denies that it's a messy election, while some polls stay open late.


Rebecca Traister
November 8, 2006 5:41AM (UTC)

Voting problems? What voting problems?

According to a press release sent by the Pennsylvania Department of State this afternoon, "voting in the General Election is going well, and preparations made by the state and counties are allowing voters to make their voices heard."

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The state's Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes is quoted in the release as saying, "Considering this is the first General Election where voters are using new electronic voting systems, Pennsylvania is having a good election day."

We'd hate to see what a bad election day looked like.

Cortes concedes in the release that "as in every election," the Department of State has been notified of some voting "issues" but claims that they have also managed to find resolutions. "In a few cases, back up procedures have been used to make sure every vote is counted," Cortes said. "Most issues have been resolved quickly and we have found that the majority of the issues raised have been the result of human error. Suggestions that voting machines are failing across the commonwealth are simply erroneous and not borne out by the facts."

The suggestions Cortes is referring to are the widespread rumors that voting machines have broken down all over the state, rumors that have spread from polling place to polling place. In fact, there have been complaints that machines malfunctioned in 15 locations around Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, resulting in delayed poll openings and prompting voters to leave in frustration.

Local news is also reporting that polling hours have been extended one hour until 9 p.m. in Lebanon County, Pa., because of malfunctioning voting machines. "At least one machine at each polling station was misprogrammed," Lebanon County's chief clerk of elections, Elaine Ludwig, told Agence France-Presse. "I am so up to my ears trying to get this thing rectified." Lancaster and Lucerne counties will also keep polling places open late because of problems today.

Asked to comment on Cortes' sunny assessment of the day, legal coordinator for People for the American Way's vote-monitoring group Election Protection for Allegheny County, Tanya Clay House, told Salon, "I don't see how it's a good voting day when you have hundreds of people turned away from the polls this morning. Maybe it hasn't been as eventful as they thought it might be. But a good voting day suggests that people weren't disenfranchised and we are not entirely sure that's the case in light of what happened today in Allegheny County."

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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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