David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

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And from Sullivan County, Tennessee, where TPM Reader SJ tried to vote:

Went to my precinct to vote and all 3 machines were not working. This precinct has a lot of lower-income families and public housing. They finally got one of the machines going, but the lines were out the door - I waited close to an hour and had to get to work. I wasn't the only one - most of those leaving were young(er) working people more likely to vote Democratic. I'll be coming back later to vote, but how many of those that left will be able to do that? You would think the machines would have at least been tested and working before the actual election day.

We're not going to be able to post every anecdote like this that we receive today. It would be beside the point. We'll be looking for trends and patterns. But regardless of whether you subscribe to deep, dark conspiracy theories of GOP election trickery, voting should be easy, accurate, and fair. It's not. The system is broken.

From TPM Reader EL in Florida:

Just in case you're keeping tabs, I wanted to tell you that my wife tried to vote in our precinct in Tampa and was not on the list. After several tries to find out why, she was told that the voter database was "cleaned" and there must have been a mistake. I'm trying to find out who "cleaned" it.

We are keeping tabs.

Looks like Ohio is going to be interesting today. From TPM Reader JH:

Similar problems in Hamilton County to those reported in Summit County. Even though my partner changed his registration to our new address and even though he voted in the same precinct last election with no problem, because his driver's license had our old address, the pollworkers forced him to vote a provisional ballot. This precinct is smack dab in the middle of the congressional district where . . . Jean Schmidt should lose to Victoria Wulsin, but turnout will matter. The lines were long, with people standing in the rain, and the pollworkers seemed ill equipped to handle the process. Could be a long day in Ohio again.

And so it goes.

It was widely reported yesterday that Missouri's Democratic secretary of state had trouble voting absentee in the St. Louis area:

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan raised concerns about potential voter confusion in Tuesday's elections, citing her own experience casting an absentee ballot as an indication that some poll workers may wrongly be asking voters for a photo identification.

Carnahan told The Associated Press on Monday that a worker at the St. Louis Election Board asked her three times to show a photo identification when she voted absentee last Friday - despite a Missouri Supreme Court ruling striking down the photo requirement.

We'll be keeping an eye today on whether this remains a problem in Missouri precincts, where the Talent-McCaskill race is too close to call.

Real-time reporting of election-related problems can be found here. Scroll down and click on the U.S. map. You will be able to view by state and county. Ohio jumps out already this morning with numerous reports of problems in the largest counties. The site seems to be getting a lot of traffic and is slow to load.

Late Update: The site has crashed.

TPM Reader AM checks in from Ohio:

Reporting from Summit County, where we use optical scan machines: my husband and I were in line at 6:30 a.m. when the polls opened so we were the 14th & 15th people in our precinct (8-C) to vote. Unfortunately, the optical scanner wouldn't accept any ballots. I hung around until 7:30 a.m. to see if they got it working and when I left it was still down. Of course, it took all 4 of the octogenarians staffing the precinct table to try to "fix" the problem so the line was backed up out the door & into the parking lot, where voters were treated to a light morning drizzle.

Sure hope my vote gets counted. And I hope not too many people had to bail out of the line in order to make it to their jobs on time.

Keeping the bloggers at bay:

Two-by-two, polling specialists from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press will go into rooms in New York and Washington shortly before noon Tuesday. Their cellphones and BlackBerrys will be confiscated; proctors will monitor the doors; and for the next five hours, these experts will pore over exit-poll data from across the country.

If all goes well, only when they emerge from their cloisters will the legions of ravenous political bloggers have any chance of getting their hands on the earliest indication of which party will end up controlling Congress.

Let's just remember folks that this is about protecting the value of their proprietary information, not some high-minded effort to prevent the misuse of the polling data. That's fine. No one is expected to reveal his or her scoop in advance (in this instance, literally before it's ready for primetime).

What remains ironic though is that it's the major news organizations themselves that over-rely on the exit polls and have done so for years. The 2000 and 2004 debacles aside, the exit polls have long driven the networks' election night coverage, providing them with the pretense of speaking authoritatively about the results before the results are known.

It is television that has turned election night into the political equivalent of the Superbowl, where the Democrats and Republicans will battle it out for four hours or so and then a winner will be handed the trophy by a beaming TV announcer. For those four hours, they want us on the couch eating Doritos, not surfing the web for exit poll data.

You wonder though. If all the money the networks pour into exit polling went instead into political reporting, actual political reporting, wearing out the shoe leather about who's doing what and where during the last hours of the campaigns and on election day, whether the result might be more informative for the electorate. Maybe, for instance, the networks would have caught on to the NRCC's nationwide robocall scam first, instead of the blogs.

The networks closing themselves off in sealed rooms with no connections to the outside world for five hours in the middle of Election Day is, in many ways, the perfect metaphor for what is wrong with the mainstream media.

After all the voting shenanigans in Florida I can understand to an extent why voting officials there might be a little defensive. But this column by Tom Lyons in the Sarasota paper shows how at least one local voting official's defensiveness turns into attacks on those reporting problems with voting machines:

[Superviser of Elections Kathy] Dent has long been getting mad at anyone who raises any concern about her voting machines. No matter how reasonable or polite the people may be, they are assumed to be up to no good.

I was also struck by Dent's claim to me on Thursday, after just a handful of reported problems and little or no press coverage.

"These reports of alleged problems with the voting machines have been blown out of proportion," Dent said.

What? By whom? And how? Is mentioning a problem now bad judgment?

I asked Dent to explain, but got no answer.

Dent also insisted, in another e-mailed message, that the reports of problems actually indicate the machines are working properly, because all the accounts ended with successful votes.

That is quite a conclusion. It ignores the obvious fact that if some machines are sometimes losing ballot choices, anyone who didn't notice the error would, of course, not be able to complain.

We posted yesterday about the problems during early voting in Sarasota. Read Lyons' entire column here.

You can hear one of the NRCC robocalls here, from the race in the New York 19th Congressional District.


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