SPECIAL REPORT: Virginia "Ground Zero" for Election Day Voting Controversies
Below is a report we sent out at 4 pm this afternoon, summarizing some of our key coverage of voting rights and election issues in the South. Visit Facing South for more updates and analysis!
VOTING RIGHTS WATCH - Election Day Special Report
Virginia, Florida and Georgia lead states with voting rights controversies on historic Election Day
NOVEMBER 4, 2008, 4 P.M. -- Florida, Georgia, and especially Virginia have been "ground zero" for voting controversies today in a historic election marked by record turnout across the South.
Several voting rights and election issues have cropped up in the major battleground state of Virginia, where Barack Obama holds a narrow lead in the presidential race:
BLOCK THE VOTE: College-aged voters are 40% of new voters in Virginia, but students have faced big hurdles. The polling site for Virginia Tech has twice as many voters as it's legally authorized to accommodate, and a hacker at George Mason University sent bogus emails to students telling them to vote on Wednesday, Nov. 5. The Republican Party has also threatened to challenge several hundred student votes.
OVERWHELMED PRECINCTS: As voting rights advocates had feared, Virginia has been overwhelmed by high turnout; as of this morning, the national Election Protection hotline had received 200 calls from VA voters about polling site problems and 120 about machine malfunctions. Election Protection has called for extending voting hours to ensure everyone still gets a chance to vote.
DIRTY TRICKS: Not just students have been targeted with deceptive tactics. VA voters have reported receiving anonymous robo-calls that give the wrong precinct for voting and fliers distributed in the Hampton Roads area informed Democrats they should vote on Nov. 5. The state decided against prosecuting those responsible,calling it an "office joke."
Voting Rights Watch has helped bring national attention to several other critical election issues across the South:
FLORIDA HURRICANE: A surge in voting -- especially in South Florida -- helped push Florida to the top of states with calls to the Election Protection hotline before Election Day. Key issues have been ex-felon voting and confusion over Florida's "no match" list -- now numbering over 10,000 voters -- which has been inconsistently applied and possibly disenfranchised legitimate voters.
GEORGIA PURGES: Election Protection has received over 1,000 calls from Georgia, mostly about registration problems. Secretary of State Karen Handel recently drew a rebuke from the Department of Justice and federal judges for her state's aggressive efforts to purge voters.
GULF COAST CONFUSION: Voters in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- many displaced by Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike -- have faced major barriers to confirming registrations and polling locations -- especially worrisome after 21,000 Louisiana voters were purged.
MORE DECEPTIVE TACTICS: CNN reports that voters in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas have received text-messages telling them to vote on Nov. 5; fliers with the same bogus information cropped up in North Carolina.
-- Chris Kromm, Sue Sturgis and Desiree Evans for Facing South/Voting Rights Watch