* Pennsylvania ID law causes "massive confusion"
* Headaches for college students in Florida
* Last-minute lawsuit in Ohio over software patch
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, Nov 6 Sporadic complaints about
voting procedures surfaced from Pennsylvania to Florida on
Tuesday, while long lines in many states posed their own
challenges in what could be one of the closest presidential
elections in U.S. history.
It was unclear what impact controversies over everything
from the presence of poll watchers to software installation on
tabulation machines would eventually have on an election that
caps the long and bitter presidential campaign. National opinion
polls showed President Barack Obama and Republican challenger
Mitt Romney in a virtual dead heat.
Watchdog groups said there was confusion over voter ID
requirements in Pennsylvania, a state Obama had been expected to
win, but that Romney visited in recent days as he sought to
expand the battleground.
"Poll workers have been poorly and wrongfully trained, and
they are standing there and sitting there and requiring people
to show ID, and sending people home if they don't have the ID,"
said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers'
Committee for Civil Rights, at a press conference in Washington.
"The state of Pennsylvania ought to be ashamed."
A judge in Pennsylvania last month blocked the state from
requiring voters to show photo identification, a setback for
Republican state officials who had championed the law.
Pennsylvania's ID rules were among a raft of new voting laws
passed mostly by Republican-led legislatures in dozens of states
since 2011. The courts have thrown out the harshest of the new
laws, or at least ordered their implementation delayed.
Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy, a
Philadelphia-based elections watchdog, said most of the hundreds
of calls the group has received so far were about "massive
confusion" over voter ID requirements.
But he said only a small percentage of those calls - maybe
10 percent - have been from voters who were either turned away
or saw people turned away because they lacked photo ID.
Republicans had their own complaints in Pennsylvania. The
party got a court order to reinstate 75 Republican election
officials in Philadelphia who allegedly were prohibited from
entering polling places.
"This was a shameless attempt from the Obama campaign to
suppress our legally appointed Republican poll watchers in
Philadelphia and they got caught," said Pennsylvania Republican
Party Chairman Rob Gleason.
LINES SNAKE AROUND THE BLOCK
Long lines at polls in many states prompted concerns that
some voters would give up without casting their ballots. Lengthy
waits to vote were reported in Florida, Virginia and Ohio, all
key swing states, as well as New Jersey and New York, states
walloped a week ago by superstorm Sandy.
Civil rights leaders said the lines threatened to be an
international embarrassment for the United States.
"When you look at the lines that have formed in places like
Ohio, they are longer than the lines in Baghdad and Kabul," said
Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil
and Human Rights.
In the densely populated Miami area, wait times on Tuesday
ranged from 15 minutes to more than three hours to vote a
lengthy ballot. A lawsuit had been filed already on Sunday in
Florida over the waiting times for early voting, which in some
cases on Saturday stretched to six and seven hours.
The suit, filed by the state's Democratic Party, said lines
in Democratic-leaning areas of Miami, Broward and Palm Beach
counties were longer than in others, deterring or preventing
people from voting.
State elections officials said the issue was moot because
supervisors in the three counties in question had opened up on
Sunday and Monday to allow voters to cast absentee ballots in
person after the official end to early voting.
Some Florida ballots were up to 12 pages long. Among other
things voters were considering 11 proposed amendments to the
state constitution, including one to stop implementation of
President Obama's signature health care plan.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that the hotly
contested state, which has 11.9 million people registered to
vote, could be in for a record turnout.
PROBLEMS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
College students voting away from home also ran into
problems in Florida.
At the massive University of Central Florida in Orlando,
with some 58,000 students, many students had to use provisional
ballots because their voter registration cards list their home
addresses. A new state law for the first time prohibits making
address changes on the spot.
"Right now, it's annoying me," said Kristen Wiley, 20, a
junior from Boca Raton who said she had requested, but not
received, an absentee ballot from Palm Beach County. She was
waiting in line for a provisional ballot, knowing it would not
count unless her eligibility is later verified.
"If it's close enough, they'll count it. Right now it seems
everything is close," Wiley said. She declined to say who she
planned to vote for.
Another twist in Florida were the hundreds of voters in
Clearwater who received automated telephone calls telling them
they had until the end of "tomorrow" to vote. The Tampa Bay
Times quoted a local election supervisor saying that the calls
were supposed to have gone out on Monday.
Multiple problems were reported in New Jersey, where
superstorm Sandy crashed ashore eight days ago.
"There's just one word to describe the experience in New
Jersey, and that is a catastrophe," Arnwine told reporters.
She said that computer servers have crashed; voters were
being asked for ID that is not required; some polling places
opened late; and multiple locations did not have ballots.
While Obama was expected to win easily in New York, New
Jersey and Connecticut, the states most affected by Sandy, a low
turnout there could expose fissures in the arcane Electoral
College system that decides the presidency.
With the race in a dead heat, according to most polls, it's
possible that low voter turnout in storm-ravaged states could
allow one candidate to win the state-by-state Electoral College
race while losing the popular vote.
In battleground state Ohio, there was nervousness about the
role that provisional ballots could play. If Ohio voters earlier
requested an absentee ballot but then decide to vote in person,
they are required to cast a provisional ballot.
But under state law provisional ballots cannot be counted
until 10 days after the election, a spokesman for the Ohio
secretary of state said.
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, told CNN
that counting those ballots could delay the result.
Last Friday Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted
issued a controversial directive that ordered county boards of
elections to reject provisional ballots when every part of the
form was not properly filled out. Voting rights groups and
unions have protested and sued in court.
There is also a lawsuit over software patches installed at
the last minute on electronic vote tabulation systems in some
Ohio counties. Matthew McClellan, spokesman for the secretary of
state's office, said the concerns were "ridiculous."
He said the patches did not change any county's tabulation
system or voting machines. "We provided these counties a
separate reporting tool. All it does is, it takes the report
generated by their tabulation system, and puts it in the tool
that formats it so it can be directly uploaded on our website,"
McClellan said in a phone interview.