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Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Notes on Election Day

(Updated 5:45 p.m.) Here I accumulate notes on Election Day -- the lawsuits, the unforeseen technical problems, the plea for a clothing-optional polling place, etc. -- as they develop and as LBB permits.

(Updated 5:45 p.m., new material added to the end.)

Here are my notes, added to periodically during the day, about Election Day as it is developing. Some will be predictable, others silly. I won't comment on opinion polls, because today they matter even less than on other days, except to note that even exit polls are problematic. In 2000 and 2004 early exit polls said the Democratic presidential candidate was a clear winner, and networks and pollsters ended up with egg on their faces. That probably won't stop them from premature declarations of Democratic victory today -- since they've been doing it already for days -- but we'll see. (The purpose of an exit poll in actual research is to learn why people voted as they did, not to get an early read on the votes themselves. It's good for the former, not so good for the latter.)

Both sides have attorneys hovering over the battleground states in droves; I wonder what the attorneys-per-electoral-vote ratio is. At least some of them are instructed to find problems whether problems exist or not, both for their direct effect and to counter any charges of hanky-panky made by the other side. ("See? Both sides do it!") They'll come up with something. Generally, the Republicans charge the Democrats with voter fraud, and the Democrats countercharge the Republicans with voter intimidation.

Note that I'm relying here on The Drudge Report and, among other sources.

Morning (and Earlier)

(8:45 a.m.)

By tradition, in two New Hampshire towns, Dixville Notch and Hart's Location, voters vote at midnight, and the results are immediately available. Barack Obama beat John McCain 15 to 6 and 17 to 10, respectively.

The McCain campaign has filed suit this morning in Virginia, asking a judge to order a deadline extension for absentee ballots that were mailed late to soldiers overseas and therefore could not be returned on time. Whether this is a deliberate ploy by Democratic voting officials or not, the Republican interest here is that soldiers tend to vote Republican, and Virginia is a critical swing state. (You may recall Democratic efforts to suppress solders' absentee ballots in Florida in 2000.) Wiser than the Gore campaign, the Obama campaign is assuring people from the beginning that they want all the soldier's ballots counted.

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that a nudist colony in Florida wants to establish its own clothing-optional polling place. A state official said it wouldn't be illegal, but they're not making any new precincts until the next round of redistricting.

Back in Virginia, a federal court yesterday rejected a suit brought by the Virginia chapter of the NAACP, claiming that the distribution of voting machines was discriminatory and demanding longer hours and more paper ballots.

The Obamas vote at the same Chicago elementary school as terrorist William Ayers and Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Republican poll watchers have already been thrown out of several Philadelphia precincts. This -- throwing them out -- is a crime punishable by fines and jail time, but it is also something of a Philadelphia tradition. One wonders what the Democrats there are trying to hide. (Or does one?)

YouTube has Hillary Clinton politicking illegally in a polling place in Chappaqua, New York.

It's not new, but we'll hear more of it today: Democrats claim that black voters are disenfranchised by long lines (see the dismissed NAACP lawsuit above) and that requiring photo ID (as in Indiana, Arizona, and Florida -- and for new voters in Utah who registered by mail) discrimates against the poor, the elderly, minorities. (Can someone explain the last one to me without sounding racist?) I myself like the fact that requiring ID helps to discriminate against the dead, the fictional, and the otherwise fraudulent.

This morning I'm hearing a story or two from somewhere in the country about voting machines flipping Obama votes to McCain votes. These are needed to match the earlier stories (from early voting) of machines flipping McCain votes to Obama voters. (Sorry, do I sound cynical?)

Starbucks is now offering free coffee to everyone today, after learning that their original promotion, giving free coffee to people who say they have voted, is a violation of federal law. You're not supposed to pay someone to vote. (That's reserved for candidates promising tax breaks and government handouts.)

Finally, for now, here's a weather issue we don't think about in advance: In some places in Virginia, voters coming in wet from the rain are dripping on their optical scan ballots, making them unreadable for the scanning machines.


(1:00 p.m.)

Thanks to YouTube and a guy with a cell phone camera, we now have one view of what voter intimidation might look like outside one polling place in Philadelphia. It doesn't show what's going on inside the polling place, of course, but it does show the thugs at the door. The media is identifying them as Black Panthers.

Meanwhile, there are reports on the radio -- I haven't found anything on the web yet -- of Republican poll watchers being kept 50 feet away from the voter check-in at some New Hampshire precincts. This is where it is determined whether a particular voter is registered to vote -- and whether the person present is that voter. You can see why poll watchers would want to monitor this -- which is entirely legal and well within the normal activities of poll watchers -- and you can imagine why some officials would want to keep them from doing so -- which is illegal.

Here's a Fox News story on scattered voting problems around the country so far -- most presumably innocent and predictable, some few perhaps not so innocent. Let's face it. Machines break. Sometimes the people who are supposed to operate them don't get them right. And high turnout stresses the system anyway, no matter what the system is.

Here are both sides of an argument about voter fraud. The right worries about people voting who shouldn't, and what effect that has on our system. The left worries about -- you guessed it -- racial discrimation. (Here's a question: How many of the poor people who don't have photo ID, as mentioned in the left side of this discussion, have a television? How many have more than one car? Yes, yes, I'm taking sides here. I do that.)

Early Evening

(5:45 p.m.)

Exit polls are showing a significant Obama lead in Pennsylvania. He may win the all-important Keystone State, but don't believe it because the exit polls say so. According to the 2004 exit polls at about this time on Election Day, the current President of the United States is John Kerry, who reportedly had a comfortable lead nationwide.

Meanwhile, Fox News is saying Obama wins Vermont and McCain wins Kentucky, neither of which is a surprise; they were solidly in their respective camps. Fox is also saying McCain wins West Virginia, which is more interesting, because West Virginia was considered to be only leaning McCain.

Here is some other accumulated material:

One Republican is trying to borrow Democratic coattails by using a fake sample ballot which shows him as a Democrat.

There have been optical scanner and related issues in Florida.

One local election official spent the night with his ballots, to guard them.

Here are the police confronting the aforementioned thugs in Philadelphia.

In Virginia, a judge has responded to the McCain campaign lawsuit I mentioned above by ordering the disputed military absentee ballots to be preserved and setting a hearing for November 10.

One guy in Minnesota stole McCain signs, blogged about it, and ended up losing his part-time job.

Here's a list of irregularities being circulated by the McCain campaign, some of which are already mentioned here. Note that they still can't seem to figure out how to vote in south Florida.

Finally, this isn't strictly voting related, but it does celebrate the long-standing relationship between politics and fecal matter.

(More later, maybe.)

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