Erik S. Lesser/EPA

More voting complaints reported than in 2010

Nonpartisan monitoring group called about problems in every state; most came from Georgia, Texas and Florida

An election watchdog said it had received over 21,000 calls on Tuesday from voters experiencing problems at U.S. polling stations — a far higher number of complaints than they received in 2010.

Calls came in from every state for the first time, but Florida, Texas and Georgia had the highest volume of complaints, according to Election Protection, which is led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition.

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Complaints from people having problems with early voting in recent weeks also far exceed those reported in the weeks prior to the 2010 election — by several thousand — Election Protection said.

In Texas, voters struggled with a new voter-ID law, which imposes strict rules on what types of identification are accepted by polling stations.

Some calls received included those from military personnel who reported problems using their military ID cards at polling stations even though such identification is recognized under the new rules, the watchdog group reported. Election Protection added that voters in California, North Carolina, New York and Kentucky had complained about a lack of interpreters at polling stations as well as rude behavior toward Americans who speak English as a second language.

In Virginia, a voter uploaded a video reportedly showing an electronic voting machine glitch at a polling station at Tallwood Elementary School in Virginia Beach. The video shows the man attempting to select Republican Rep. Scott Rigell, but the machine selecting Dem. Candidate Suzanne D. Patrick instead.

A poll worker advised him to touch above the box to select Rigell, which solved the problem, according to the voter. Rigell called the glitch “troubling” in an email to supporters, according to reports.

Virginia's Department of Elections spokesman Cameron Sasnett said 32 machines of the 820 machines citywide in 25 Virginia Beach precincts experienced problems on Tuesday.  

In Georgia, Election Protection received complaints from many of those among the 40,000 “disappeared” people who had registered to vote but whose details had not been transferred to preliminary voting rolls. Voters in affluent neighborhoods seemed to receive their voter registration cards in a timely manner, while voters from largely poor and minority communities waited months only to learn there was no record of their registration in the system.

Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change — the nation’s largest online civil rights organization — told Al Jazeera that Georgia voters also complained of long lines and confusion over polling locations.

“Georgia had a number of problems … [including] lost or missing voter registrations, challenges with long lines, the website being shut down and not being able to get information about polling station locations,” Robinson said.

“This kind of incompetence is not only disheartening but dangerous to the democratic process,” Color of Change said on its Facebook page. Despite the challenges, Rashad said early indications and exit polling suggested a much stronger black voter turnout this year than in 2010.

Isolated problems were reported in states including Georgia, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Arkansas, the group said in a conference call on Tuesday. Complaints centered on voters who had recently moved and were not found in the polling system, lack of interpreters or Spanish-language ballots, and confusion over polling locations.

A command center manned by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation tracked these problems and voter turnout on Tuesday in real time.

Most of the problems were resolved quickly with the help of lawyers associated with the group, the coalition said. They reported higher than normal early voting turnout, as well as higher turnout on Election Day this year compared to 2010.

In Ferguson, Missouri, where unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer over the summer — igniting racially charged protests —there were reports of police officers asking individual voters to show their ID cards at polling stations.

“Even one or two instances of that happening could be a deterrent to vote,” Jane Ingram of the National Action Network said according to the Guardian.

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