Polling problems

Whistleblower is there for the recount, and you’re invited

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

People are convening in office buildings, warehouses, courthouses and convention centers across Minnesota to scrutinize hundreds of thousands of ballots in the U.S. Senate race recount. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has laid out elaborate do’s and don’ts for those conducting the recount. One of those guidelines is that the recount can’t be a secret meeting in a smoke-filled, or even a Minnesota-style smoke-free, room: “Recount locations are open to the public and the media and there will be a public viewing area in each recount location.”

With all the scrutiny of the process, there will likely be confrontations and technical troubles and other surprises to interrupt the tedium. That’s where you and Whistleblower come in. If you see or hear about something that went wrong at a recount site, please send an email or call me at (612) 673-4271. I’ll be blogging about it all day right here.

I’m not expecting the same generous flood of suggestions that followed my solicitations for reports of troubles at the polls on Election Day. Nevertheless, I will try to follow up on whatever troubles I do hear about.According to the list of recount locations (you’ll need Microsoft Excel to read it), the recounts or recount preparations will begin Wednesday at 50 sites, including 13 of Hennepin’s 19 recount sites, Ramsey County, Anoka, Carver, Dakota and Washington counties in the metro.

The audience at each recount will be observing an elaborately staged performance with a rigid script. The cast includes Deputy Recount Officials, Table Officials, Lead Representatives and their mobile emissaries, Roving Representatives. The action will be the sorting of papers into piles, verbal challenges, bent necks and squinting, announcing of totals, affixing of stickers and finally, the sealing of envelopes. The show will go on until it’s done.

And a few other ground rules:

Hands off! “Candidate representatives are not allowed to touch or otherwise handle a ballot.”
Eat a good breakfast. “No lunch break shall be taken during the middle of the sorting and counting process for a single precinct.”

Voting in Minnesota doesn’t look clean to this group

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Election Day 2008 went smoothly with only isolated problems, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, and voter advocates who were monitoring the polls. Yet the potential for “irregularities” at the polls has taken an outsized significance this year, given the near-tie and upcoming recount in the U.S. Senate race. The group Minnesota Majority now wants the Justice Department to investigate potential voter fraud in Minnesota, my colleague Kevin Duchschere reports. A key point raised by this group is one that created quite a spirited debate on this blog – that registered voters don’t have show photo identification before picking up a ballot.

I’ll be curious to see the resolution of the group’s Data Practices Act requests for records related to “registration procedures, such as verification postcards returned as ‘undeliverable’ and voters who may have been challenged at the polls before voting.”

Parting Election Day words from satisfied voters

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Thank you so much for helping Whistleblower patch together this crazy quilt of voter experiences this Election Day. Despite the litany of malfunctions, frustrations and confrontations, things actually went pretty well for most voters, it appears. I’m sure I’ll hear more about what went wrong in the days ahead.

I’ll leave you with these accounts from voters who wanted to channel happiness:

No problem here…just a very long line. It is exciting to see many people take advantage of their right to vote! (Jeff Marchand, New Brighton).

Finally, before I took my ballot over to slip it into the machine, I took a last look at my choices. It’s not often that you know that your vote will make history. It was something to savor. (Joanne Meehl, Maple Grove).

I was greeted with friendly smiling faces of poll workers ready to have me sign in and cast my vote. There were no lines and I was in and out all toll about 10 – 15 minutes. I spent the most time voting on the second page of the ballot with over 30 Judges running and most were unopposed. It was a wonderful experience to again participate in our blessed freedom to cast my vote. We are so lucky to enjoy this freedom in America. (Michael Cunniff, Edina).

Poll flashpoint: Cedar-Riverside precinct in Minneapolis

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

briancoyle.JPGLawyers, poll watchers and journalists flocked to the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. There, a spirited election challenger and high numbers of recent immigrants registering at the polls added up to some tense confrontations.

The Minnesota Independent reported that based in interviews with three voters, a translator at the precinct was instructing voters he was helping that they should vote for Sen. Norm Coleman. The story also describes the aggressive behavior of the poll challengers toward other translators. The Twin Cities Daily Planet also has an account of the scene at the precinct.

When I visited the polling place, about 3 p.m., I saw a poll challenger quietly challenging a voter’s registration, based on the address on a utility bill not matching an ID card, and then withdrawing his written challenge after a conversation with the election judge. The newly registered voter proceeded to the polls. The challenger declined to comment to me.