Election day encounters

Ratboy and I were first at the precinct (on LA Pkwy) mentioned below, perhaps the most problematic one in the city. Machines were not working for the first three hours of voting (6am-9am). No repair techs came, and no provisional or paper ballots were distributed to the frustrated voters. Scores of people came to vote, waited, and left. Some were elderly folks who had only one ride that day. This precinct, like the several others we visited which had significant problems, were all overwhelmingly African-American neighborhoods (90%+).

So Ratboy and I called every local TV network plus the Times-Picayune and got some media on the scene (ABC 26, T-P, and WWL came in that order). We distributed complaint forms, and got an election protection attorney out there. I have to give a lot of credit to the folks at Election Protection. They were well staffed, highly responsive (with help from us) and had a very impressive command center in the Central Business District. I have nothing but praise for their efforts in New Orleans. Their national 866 numbers were jammed when I called, though.

Here’s what the AP reported it:

[Atty Bill Quigley] says that at one precinct in New Orleans, all three voting machines were broken and voters were being turned away and told to come back later. Almost three hours after the polls opened, he said, no one had cast a ballot at that precinct. [Editor: this was Precinct 20, Ward 14 at 3915 Louisiana Parkway]

WWL-TV reports that viewers had called in reports of problems at more than 20 precincts in and around New Orleans. Problems range from broken machines to a lack of provisional ballots for people whose registrations are in question.

The good news was that I didn’t see any voter suppression shenanigans, or overt misrepresentations by campaign “volunteers”. The problems we saw in the morning were no doubt compounded by heavy afternooon thundershowers and tornado warnings. While surveying the disenfranchisement first hand, I recalled yesterday’s article from TomPaine:

Just as poor people get the crap schools and crap hospitals, they get the crap voting machines.

It’s bad for Hispanics; but for African Americans, it’s a ballot-box holocaust. An embarrassing little fact of American democracy is that, typically, two million votes are spoiled in national elections, registering no vote or invalidated. Based on studies by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the Harvard Law School Civil Rights project, about 54 percent of those ballots are cast by African Americans. One million black votes vanished– phffft!

Bloody outrageous.

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