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Quirky election day at Pa., W.Va. polls

November 07, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • This sign asking voters to show their photo IDs was on display at the polling place in State Line, Pa.
Photo by Jennifer Fitch

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Strong voter turnout coupled with confusion at polling places kept phones ringing non-stop throughout the day Tuesday for the Franklin County (Pa.) Board of Elections.

In Waynesboro, police responded to the Waynesboro Church of the Brethren polling place at about 1:15 p.m.

Poll workers said two people wanted to hang around inside and did not leave when asked, Police Chief James Sourbier said. No arrests were made, and officers checked other polls to ensure the individuals did not cause problems there, he said.

The elections board asked the State Line, Pa., precinct to remove a handmade sign that stated, “Show Photo I.D.” The board’s decision at about 5 p.m. reversed an earlier one to leave the sign visible to voters walking in the door.

“We’re asking the judge of elections (in that precinct) to either update the sign ... or take it down altogether,” said David Keller, a Franklin County Commissioner.

Voter turnout was about 73 percent, the same percentage of turnout in November 2008. Franklin County, which has 80,218 registered voters, is one of 67 counties in Pennsylvania, a state with 20 electoral votes.

Last month, a state judge blocked a new Republican-sponsored law requiring Pennsylvania voters to show photo identification. As a result of the judge’s ruling, polling place workers were told to still ask voters for a photo ID, but no one was required to produce one. A state law still required first-time voters to show ID, but non-photo forms were acceptable, including a bank statement or a utility bill.

But reports were rife of election workers nonetheless demanding photo ID from voters, according to Philadelphia-based election watchdog the Committee of Seventy.

Outside one polling place in the Pittsburgh suburb of Rochester, an election worker shouted to a line of voters to “have your ID ready,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

MSNBC posted a picture online from Rose Township, Pa. There, a sign at a polling place stated, “Pennsylvania law now requires voters (including family, friends, neighbors and familiar faces) to show an acceptable photo ID at the polls.”

A YouTube video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdpGd74DrBM) from a Pennsylvania voter claimed to show a video voting machine repeatedly changing an Obama vote to a Romney selection.

Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said county offices received a number of calls Tuesday from people seeking to verify registration status or find polling place information. The Franklin County 911 Center received a call on a police line from someone asking where to vote.

In Martinsburg, W.Va., Berkeley County Deputy Clerk Bonnie Woodfall said the biggest issue that surfaced during Tuesday’s general election was the sheer number of residents who did not know the location of their polling place.

Woodfall said that as of 3:30 p.m. the County Clerk’s voter registration office had received “umpteen” phone calls from people, including from those who not registered to vote and others who had not voted for several years.

Voters were sent notices before the primary election in May if their polling place had changed and no changes were made since then, according to Woodfall.

At the start of the day, county election officials discovered that voting machines programmed for polling places at Hedgesville Elementary and Bunker Hill United Methodist Church were mistakenly switched and taken to the wrong voting location, Woodfall said.

Some voters had to wait because of the mix-up, but were “very nice” despite the delay, Woodfall said.

Herald-Mail staff writer Matthew Umstead and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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