Voting Rights Watch: Many of Va.'s election day problems could have been avoided by honoring request for paper ballots

The Election Protection Coalition held a conference call for reporters earlier today in which they offered details on the widespread voting problems occurring around Virginia. As of this morning, the coalition's hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE had received almost 200 calls regarding polling place problems and more than 120 calls regarding problems with voting machines and other equipment across the state.

In one Richmond precinct, all the voting machines broke down for a period, and in another there was only one machine working. There were long lines at another city polling place because only one optical scanner was available. As a consequence, voters were being forced to wait in line as long as four hours. Some commentators have dubbed these excessively long waits "the new poll tax," as they hit working people -- along with the elderly and disabled -- especially hard.

Some of the excessive waits across Virginia could have been easily avoided if the state had honored the request made by voting rights advocates in a lawsuit filed against the state last week and denied by a judge yesterday. The lawsuit -- filed by Advancement Project on behalf of the Virginia NAACP targeting unequal allocation of voting equipment and poll workers -- had called on the state to issue a uniform, statewide order instructing local elections officials to have enough emergency paper ballots on hand to use in the case of malfunctioning machines.

"Voters are clearly bearing the burden of the lack of leadership from the Virginia State Board of Election," said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause's national campaign for election reform.