(5 of 15)
Franken Courts the Youth Vote in Minnesota,
3 p.m. E.T.
U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken received a sleepy reception as he strolled through the University of Minnesota's student union with St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman and campaign staffers. Students sporting red "I voted" stickers approached him for photographs, but other students lounging in the main lobby peered over their laptops, wondering who dared to interrupt their in-between-class naps.
"Hi my name is Al Franken, and I'd love your vote," the candidate told one student.
"Who did you vote for?" the student asked.
"Well, I voted for myself. Does that make you respect me less?" the former Saturday Night Live comic said.
"What are you running for?" she replied.
"I'm running for Senate. The U.S. Senate."
Franken has aggressively courted college students here, making dozens of stops to campuses across the state. And in a tight race with Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, his victory may hinge on whether the left-leaning youth electorate show up at the polls in record numbers. "A lot of these kids are freshman, and they were 10 or 11 when George Bush was elected," Franken said. "They just don't know that government is supposed to work. We have a President who can't go to Cleveland without signing a loyalty oath."
By all observations, the youth vote is buzzing in Minnesota. During the 2004 presidential election, the state topped the nation in 18- to 24-year-old voters showing up at the polls, and nearly 90,000 new 18- to 29-year-olds have registered in the state. Young activists literally overnight put placards around the University of Minnesota campus with Obama and get-out-the vote signs. As early as 7 a.m. car horns incessantly honked as the activists waved signs and danced on University Ave., the main thoroughfare on campus.
The demographic nevertheless continues to bring the smallest percentage of eligible voters to the polls, and the question of whether the youth will have any significant affect on elections is as old as the 26th Amendment.
Amber Braun, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Minnesota, smiled widely as she exited the polling station here. But she said she might not have voted if activists hadn't briefed her yesterday on the voting procedure. The next morning, a line of roughly 50 students waited quietly to cast their first votes. Many, like Precious Gaddis, a junior and first time voter, were at the wrong polling station and left. Gaddis said someone at her apartment complex told her she could vote at the student union but was turned away there today. Meanwhile, students in line murmured to each other whether they were at the right station and if they have to be registered (the state has same-day registration).
"It was a little scary and I thought I was going to fill in the wrong bubble. They have pens," Braun said. "I just had an irrational fear."
Indeed, voting is a bit like a test you have to wait in line to take. But for Gaddis, who is black and said she is excited about Obama's potential presidency because it shows the country has come a long way in race-relations, it's a test she wants to take. "It would be cool to be a part of history," she said. "Plus, [Obama] has good politics and everything." By Justin Horwath / Minneapolis
Ohio Republicans Launch Another Voter-Fraud Challenge,
2:30 p.m. E.T.
The Ohio Republican Party (ORP) this morning added another chapter to the ongoing legal saga here over its fears of voter fraud. The ORP's latest complaint against Ohio secretary of state Jennifer Brunner, filed in U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio, alleges that the rules governing provisional ballots are so vague that each of Ohio's 88 counties could end up treating those votes differently and be subject to violations of numerous federal equal-protection and election laws.
Daniel Tokaji, an election-law expert at Ohio State University, says the intent behind this motion might be to allow post-election legal disputes over provisional ballots should Ohio's election results be very close.
Oddly, this amended complaint puts the ORP in the same boat as the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), a left-leaning advocacy group that in 2006 made similar claims about provisional ballots against the secretary of state. Ten days ago, Brunner settled the case with NEOCH by issuing directives on when and how to count provisional ballots.
While this action satisfied NEOCH, Ohio Republicans want Brunner to go even further. Their complaint alleges that Brunner's directive remains ambiguous without enough details on how to match signatures on provisional ballots with voter information on file.
The ORP first raised the specter of voter fraud several weeks ago, when it argued against a novel "golden week" a five-day period in early October during which new voters could go to boards of election to both register and vote at the same time. The ORP argued that simultaneous registration and voting didn't allow election officials to verify voters' identities. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Ohio secretary of state.
More recently, the ORP took issue with the secretary of state's voter database matching process. All mismatches should be compiled into a concise report and sent to county boards of election, the ORP said. This was presumably so the ORP could use such data for challenges later on. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the ORP's claims on technical grounds, saying that the ORP had no standing to bring such a lawsuit and that the Ohio secretary of state lacked the technology to produce such reports. By Charu Gupta / Cleveland
Dems Report Voting Problems in Colorado,
2:19 p.m. E.T.
Schoolchildren in Denver's multicultural Park Hill neighborhood serenaded election workers this morning with "America the Beautiful" while Election Protection, a national watchdog group, began compiling the following list of Colorado voting problems:
Numerous reports of Colorado voters not obtaining absentee ballots in time to cast their votes.
Reports of poll workers requiring additional and unnecessary identification from voters in Denver.
Incidents of untrained poll workers and faulty voting machines reported in Jefferson County.
Reports of voters being asked to fill out provisional ballots if they are in the wrong precinct instead of being redirected to the appropriate location.
Mid-morning, Stephanie Mueller, state communications director for the Obama campaign, called TIME to express frustration with the Arapahoe County clerk, who was refusing to use paper ballots to alleviate long lines for electronic voting. Mueller said concerns centered particularly in Aurora, an eastern suburb of Denver that lies within Arapahoe County, where blacks comprise 13.4% of the population, compared with a statewide black population of 4.1%. By Rita Healy / Denver
Grand Rapids: Scenes from a Polling Station,
1:54 p.m. E.T.
In the inner-city neighborhoods of Grand Rapids, Mich., Democrats are taking no chances. Cars with loudspeakers mounted on the roof are prowling the streets, exhorting people to vote: "Your vote can make a difference!"
Volunteers with sample ballots were demonstrating how to vote and giving advice on whom to vote for to those waiting at the First Christian Reformed Church on Bates Street. Asked if he was allowed to campaign while voters were standing in line, a Democratic volunteer pointed to a spot in the parking lot and said, "It's O.K.! I'm behind the [electioneering] line."
Inside, election challengers and poll watchers hovered as election judges signed people in and handed out ballots. A young African-American man was waved off when he attempted to use his U.S. passport as identification. "Don't you have something with an address?" asked the poll worker. Told he did not, she passed him off to another judge. He eventually was given a ballot.
A row of five voting booths went unused, despite a line that snaked out the door and halfway around the building. One judge gave two people two different reasons that those booths were not in operation. The first person was told they were in use by another precinct. The second person, that they weren't set up yet, despite the fact that polls had been open for more than four hours.
Waiting times at some polling places in Michigan now exceed three hours. Officials blame the convergence of record turnout estimated at 70% statewide with inexperienced first-time voters. At some locations, people are passing out snacks and water, encouraging people to stay in line until they can vote. Some belong to various organizations, but others appear to be individuals acting on their own. By Maggie Sieger / Grand Rapids
In Philadelphia, Paper Ballot Worries and a Still-Undecided Voter,
1:50 p.m. E.T.
At a hurried late-morning conference held by speakerphone in an office high over Center City Philadelphia, members of the election watchdog group The Committee of 70 discussed their main worry this busy Election Day: running out of paper ballots. Word was coming in from all over the area that poll workers were not familiar with a federal court decision last week requiring precincts to make paper ballots available in the case of a machine breakdown. Worse, there were only about 100 paper ballots pre-set at each precinct, so places with serious machine problems in the morning faced running out.
"If they run out of paper ballots at the end of the day, that would be a real problem," said committee president Zach Stalberg.
Overall, however, things had been going reasonably smoothly in the Philadelphia area, despite what is invariably being described as a record turnout in most places. There were a few spots where machines were broken or wouldn't turn on early in the day. But with a lunchtime rush approaching, he said, most of those issues had been worked out.
The committee has more than 1,000 volunteers around the area observing the election process, helping confused voters, and fielding phone calls reporting problems and abuses. In the committee's offices, more than a dozen volunteers with phone headsets and laptops were recording problems and suggesting solutions for voters.
"If he didn't register his new address, he'll have to go to the old voting place," one volunteer said.
"His voter ID card has the right polling place," another asks. "Then you can fill it out and get it back," said another into the phone. "I know it's a lot of work, but it will work. Goodbye and good luck."
At the city's most overcrowded precinct in the heart of the bustling Chinatown the lunchtime line snaked far around the corner of the block at the Chinese Christian Church at 10th and Spring streets. Easily a hundred people waited in line as a cold, and previously unpredicted, rain began to fall. The precinct was supposed to have only around 1,200 voters on the rolls but wound up this year with more than 4,000. Christy Kam, 26, a dance instructor, waited in line for more than an hour to cast her first-ever vote, only to discover that she was in the wrong place.
"Yeah, I'm still going to vote," she said with a sigh as she asked Obama volunteer Kim Irwin to confirm her real polling place. "But it's a big pain." Kam said in 2004 she didn't bother to vote because she knew John Kerry would win Pennsylvania. But this year, she feels quite strongly and wants to make sure Obama wins.
"I figure they have it covered," she said, eyeing the line stretching down the block. "But I just wanted to make sure."
Irwin, a library employee from Brooklyn, N.Y., who came to Pennsylvania to work for Obama, said the high turnout was giving her great hope. She had worked all over the city in recent weeks and found tremendous and increasing enthusiasm for Obama, even in the more McCain-friendly precincts in northeast and south Philadelphia. Turnout will help Obama, she said, gesturing to the line. "You want the people to vote."