Voting Problems in Pennsylvania Add Twist to a Tight Race

Voter ID confusion, registration miscues and misleading information cloud the race in the Keystone State on Election Day.

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Mitt Romney’s campaign claims to have found an alternative route to reach 270 electoral votes: around Ohio’s 18 and through to Pennsylvania’s 20. Stephanie Cutter, President Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager, agreed that the race for Pennsylvania has “tightened,” as RealClearPolitics tallied the margin between incumbent and challenger at just under four points. But a series of voting problems at the polls today could add a twist to the race for the state if it is close.

First came reports that some poll workers have required photo identification to vote, a rule enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature last spring but suspended a month ago in Pennsylvania court. While an official can ask for a voter to show ID, one isn’t required until next year. An exception to the rule applies in areas surrounding Pittsburgh, where a judge today ruled that no prospective voter could be asked to show ID.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, assistant Philadelphia district attorney Peter Berson has resolved most of the voter-ID confusion by calling election judges or sending police officers to troublesome polling sites. Former Representative Bob Edgar, the president and CEO of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization, believes “there is still continued intimidation on voter ID,” pointing to posters that feature misleading information.

Some registered voters, unshaken by the voter-ID rule, arrived at their polling station only to find out their name was missing from the voter rolls. In West and North Philadelphia, high volumes of fall voter registrations were unprocessed, forcing citizens to vote by provisional ballot, which can take up to a week to count. Zack Stalberg, director of the Community of Seventy, an election-watchdog group for the Philadelphia area, wrote that up to 20,000 registrations weren’t counted by mid-October and an untold number are uncounted today.

Jessica Milone, a student at Drexel University, described her experience to Community of Seventy: “I registered the week before the deadline to register,” Jessica said. “I had my voter-registration card. I went to vote today, and my name wasn’t in the poll books. So I had to vote by paper ballot. It wasn’t my preference, and I don’t know why my name wasn’t listed.”

As voters fought to get their vote counted, Pennsylvania Republican inspectors protested that Democrats were refusing them access to polling stations. The Pennsylvania GOP claimed on their website, “Democratic operatives prohibited 75 legally credentialed Republican election workers from accessing polling places in heavily Democratic areas in Philadelphia.”

“This was a shameless attempt from the Obama campaign to suppress our legally appointed Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia, and they got caught,” GOP chairman Rob Gleason said.

According to the AP, a judge has ordered to allow the GOP inspectors back into Philadelphia polling places.