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ANP: Philly official scoffs at voting problems

 

 

 

Even after plenty of forewarning, it seems like battleground state Pennsylvania's upcoming election could be a disaster waiting to happen. The man who is a heading up Election Day preparations scoffed at these problems. In fact, he shared many startling opinions with ANP.

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Story Transcript

Philadelphia, PA

Primary Election Day, 2008

These are the voices of frustrated Philadelphia voters.

Calls provided by the MYVOTE1 hotline audio archive

CALLER: My second call. The voting machines are down.

CALLER: There was a whole line of people.

[crosstalk]

CALLER: Called several times. I’ve voted there for over 30 years.

CALLER: Even though there were three voting machines there, only one was working, so a lot of people walked in and walked back out, because like myself we have to be at work.

CALLER: During that time at least 100 voters left without voting, possibly not to return.

Philly Official Scoffs at Voting Problems

By Danielle Ivory

HARRY COOK, VP INFOVOTER AND ELECTION PROTECTION EXPERT: Is Philadelphia going to be the Cuyahoga of 2004? If the primary election is any guidance for the general election, yes, people will be disenfranchised.

VOICEOVER: Harry Cook is an election protection expert. He runs a voting hotline called MYVOTE1, which allows voters to report problems at the polls. During this year’s primary in battleground Pennsylvania, voters in Philadelphia County, Delaware County, and Allegheny County left a disproportionate number of messages about machine breakdowns and long delays. According to the signed affidavits of two Philadelphia voters, some waited for nearly two hours before casting a ballot, and some couldn’t afford to wait. But despite hearing these reports and anticipating a record turnout in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Pedro Cortés recently issued a directive stipulating that emergency paper ballots will only be distributed to voters if all of the voting machines in the precinct are inoperable.

PEDRO A. CORTÉS, SECRETARY OF STATE, PENNSYLVANIA: But, again, measures are being taken in terms of preparation, in terms of proper training, to minimize the chances that we will have long lines.

VOICEOVER: But someone had a slightly different take.

FRED VOIGHT, DEPUTY ELECTION COMMISSIONER: Are there lines? Of course there are. Tough. That’s the way it works.

VOICEOVER: Fred Voight is the deputy election commissioner of Philadelphia. He was recently appointed to the city commission by Democrat Marge Tartaglione after 28 years as executive director of the Committee of Seventy. The Committee of Seventy is one of the oldest nonpartisan election watchdog groups in the city of Philadelphia.

VOIGHT: People are always going to have to wait in line. I mean, get a life. There is no system that is perfect, that when you talk about the volume that we’re looking at, that we looked at in ’04 and that we’re looking at in this coming election, people are going to have to be patient.

VOICEOVER: Voight claimed that delays on primary day did not stem from the machines, but from the humans operating the machines. He cited problems as simple as machines not being plugged in or being plugged into the wrong socket. Some machines weren’t set properly for a close primary.

VOIGHT: And it’s not the machines; it’s the human piece of it.

COOK: To me, two machines out of three in a precinct that are not operable for any reason is a machine breakdown. You know, you can parse it any way you want, but it’s not in the voters’ interest for them to be sitting there inoperable.

VOICEOVER: But regardless of whether the malfunction was human or electronic, how would Philly minimize delays in November? When asked if an emergency paper ballot could be used to alleviate a long line and thus over-stress poles, Voight was unshakable.

VOIGHT: Forget a long line. A long line is not justification for anything except waiting.

COOK: One voter leaving a line because he or she has to work out child care arrangements or get to a job that’s paying minimum wage in order to be able to vote and leaves is a disenfranchised voter. You know, it’s something that is unacceptable. I mean, there is nothing more fundamental than suffrage. It is, you know, the flour in our cake. And, you know, to say that I understand that there’s no funding for it, but it’s almost too important to not have funding for it. It’s just people trying to do their jobs with as little resources as possible, and oftentimes being stuck with a certain philosophy of how things have been done and how they should be done.

VOIGHT: There is never going to be, never has been, never will be in the future a perfect election.

VOICEOVER: Perfection may not be the immediate goal, but as Harry Cook said, some of these problems are so basic you could actually fix them.

COOK: Some people argue, oh, it just shows how fervent a voter is if they’re out there waiting an hour and a half to vote. You know, that’s crap. That’s crap. You shouldn’t have to prove how fervent you are to cast a ballot in this country; you should just be able to do it and know that it’s going to be counted.

VOICEOVER: When asked about the cost of disenfranchisement and the importance of counting every single vote in an election, Voight gave a frankly surprising answer. He insisted that Philadelphia leans so heavily Democratic that getting an accurate, verifiable vote count is unessential.

VOIGHT: This is Philadelphia. It’s almost 5:1 [inaudible]. Okay? Do I have any doubt what the outcome is going to be in Philadelphia? No. Can I go community by community in Philadelphia and tell you what the outcome’s going to be? Sure.

COOK: That shouldn’t even be part of the calculus when you’re making the decisions about how to administer elections. It’s mind boggling to me that that sort of perspective is part of someone charged with election administration. That is, again, part of the problem.

VOIGHT: It’s the media that is in hysterics. I mean, the average voter knows what they’re doing, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.

INTERVIEWER: I mean, I’m an average voter. To be honest, I don’t think the media is in hysterics either. Very few people are covering this.

VOIGHT: Thank God.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.