Chaos Looms Over Pennsylvania Vote
By Danielle Ivory & Lagan Sebert
MARGE TARTAGLIONE (D), CHAIRWOMAN, PHILADELPHIA VOTING COMMISSION: Trying to run a smooth election. You can say what you want about me. I don’t care. Spell my name right.
VOICEOVER: Who is this woman? Believe it or not, as chairwoman of the city commission, she’s running the election in Philadelphia.
TARTAGLIONE: Not in the polling place: at the polling place.
VOICEOVER: Most polls suggest the presidential race in Pennsylvania is neck and neck, so the vote in Philly could easily determine whether the state goes red or blue. During the primary election on April 22, 2008, a strong warning sign of potential November 4 problems emerged, when widespread machine breakdowns led to very long lines and lost votes. And with over 200,000 new voters in Philly, voter rights groups are worried that the city is unprepared for the upcoming surge in voting. And, unfortunately for voters, the people in charge seem surprisingly unconcerned.
FRED VOIGT, PHILADELPHIA DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: Forget a long line. A long line is not justification for anything except waiting.
TARTAGLIONE: Anybody have anything to say now? Or forever hold your peace.
REPORTER: Your deputy commissioner Fred Voigt told me that a long line is not justification for anything except waiting. I was wondering if the commission has any response to that comment.
TARTAGLIONE: Did you see people waiting for baseball tickets all night long outside? Did you see the line that they wanted the new iPod? They all waited overnight and waited in line. Do you go to the supermarket, you see people waiting in line? No, they complain, they grumble, some of them; some of them just talk. So what is the difference?
REPORTER: I’m sorry, are you comparing voters who possibly have to work during the day to people standing in line to get an iPod or a Phillies ticket?
TARTAGLIONE: It’s the same people. Same people. Come on. But you’re mixing apples—. But sit down.
ANGEL COLEMAN, VOTER: It’s a right for every single person. I always vote, ever since I turned 18, the first election that I could vote in. It’s very, very important to me to be able to vote. I got to the school. I noticed that there were a lot more cars than in the past when I come to vote, and I thought, great, you know, there’s more people out voting. But then, when I got to the door, I noticed a couple of people walking out, and people were saying that they didn’t get a chance to vote. The line was too long—they couldn’t wait. When I got inside, I definitely saw longer lines of people wanting to vote, and, unfortunately, it wasn’t just that there were more people voting; it was that two out of three machines were broken down.
VOICEOVER: Single mother Angel Coleman has joined the NAACP and a coalition of groups called the Election Reform Network in suing the State of Pennsylvania. They hope to improve access to emergency paper ballots in case machines break down again. The groups argue that long lines amount to a form of voter disenfranchisement, and they note that "The Response of Election Officials to the Impending Crisis Has Been Woefully Inadequate."
COLEMAN: This is real. This is a real problem. You know, it happened to me; it happened to the people that I saw walking out; it happened to the other people that were testifying in court with me yesterday. So this is a for-real problem. This was all happening in Philadelphia to those people, to me. And it is representative of thousands of other people around the country.
TARTAGLIONE: I don’t want these stories going out there, "There’s going to be long lines." These poor senior citizens are going to pick up the paper and say, "Oh my God—do I got to wait two hours in line, might be?" Never happened in Philadelphia. I’m tired of this propaganda that they put in, that they put in. Everybody wants a story. "It’s going to be my story. The lines are going to be so long." Knock it off. Knock it off. Trying to run a smooth election. You can say what you want about me. I don’t care. Spell my name right.
VOICEOVER: Just hours after this hearing ended, a federal judge ruled in favor of Angel Coleman and the voters of Pennsylvania, which means that paper ballots will be issued as a backup to faulty machines. Officials like Voigt and Tartaglione are the ones responsible for implementing the court order.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.