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Judges asked to extend some poll hours as US voters contend with new IDs, machines

[JURIST] Officials in several US states asked judges to extend polling hours in a number of areas Tuesday after problems with new electronic voting machines caused delays and left some voters unable to cast ballots in nationwide mid-term elections. By mid-afternoon, requests had been made in Denver, Colorado, Muncie, Indiana, and Davidson County, Tennessee [CBC report]. Voting machine-related problems were also reported in precincts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Texas. The problems, however, seemed scattered, and most observers seemed to agree that they would not compromise the vote.

New voter ID laws [JURIST news archive] in effect in a number of states to prevent alleged fraud also proved somewhat problematic, with some voters being turned back for not having the proper identification or scrambling to produce an ID when they had not anticipated doing so. In South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford was initially turned away from his polling station [The State report] because he did not have the proper voter registration card and his driver's license carried the address of the Governor's Mansion, not his permanent home address. He went away to obtain a registration card, then returned and voted. Ohio Republican congressman Steve Chabot ran into a similar problem [Reuters report]. In Virginia, state elections officials said they had asked the FBI to investigate [AP report] phone calls made to some voters saying that if they were not properly registered to vote in Virginia they would be criminally prosecuted. Other calls allegedly told voters that their polling places had changed when they had not. The Washington Post has more.

At stake in Tuesday's vote are all seats in the US House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and a range of state initiatives and ballot propositions as well as other state and local offices. The major political parties, the US Department of Justice, rights organizations and interest groups have deployed thousands of lawyers [JURIST report] at polling stations across the country to help monitor the poll in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election recount and problems with the 2004 vote.

6:58 PM ET - Judges have ordered extensions of voting hours in Delaware County, Indiana, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, DeKalb County [media advisory], Georgia, and South Carolina's 5th Congressional District [The State report] to compensate for problems encountered earlier in the day.

7:05 PM ET - In Denver, state judge Sheila Rappaport has turned down a request by the local Democratic Party to extend voting by two hours, saying it is a matter for the legislature. The Denver Post, however, is describing the situation at polling places there [Denver Post blog] with malfunctioning machines as "chaos", notwithstanding a statement by Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis welcoming the ruling [Denver Post report].

7:14 PM ET - The Democratic Party has filed suit [Columbus Dispatch report] in US District Court in Cleveland to keep the polls in Ohio's Cuyahoga County open for an additional 90 minutes to compensate for the late opening of some polling stations.

7:45 PM ET - In Cleveland, US District Court Judge Dan A. Polster has ruled [Dayton Daily News report] that polls in 16 locations in Cuyahoga County which opened more than an hour late can remain open an extra 90 minutes after their scheduled closing at 7:30 PM local time. The Ohio Attorney General has filed a motion [PDF via Election Law @ Moritz] seeking an emergency stay of the extension.

8:03 PM ET - The US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled [PDF via Election Law @ Moritz] that all Cuyahoga County ballots cast in extended voting hours authorized earlier this evening by US District Court Judge Dan A. Polster must be considered provisional.

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About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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