Seven Swing State Election Irregularities

In five of eight swing states, mishaps could confuse voters this election

ByABC News
November 3, 2012, 3:21 PM

Nov. 4, 2012 -- intro: National elections involve many moving parts and in swing states, where campaigns pour in with millions of dollars in ads and aides, the process can become even more complicated.

Out of this chaos, problems inevitably arise. In some cases, those problems appear to be maliciously motivated. In others, they're simple mistakes. Either way, state officials take them seriously, as any irregularity has the potential to deter someone from voting, depriving them of their right as an American.

Read on to see what irregularities have popped up across the country leading up to the 2012 election.

quicklist:1category: Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvaniatitle: Voter Intimidation Billboardstext: Billboard advertisements in the battleground states of Ohio and Wisconsin sparked outrage this month with a message that some equated with voter intimidation.

"Voter Fraud is a Felony," the billboards read.

Univision's Emily Deruy reported that the billboards, posted in low-income, minority communities, brought complaints that prompted their anonymous sponsor to remove them, rather than own up to the ad buy.

Clear Channel, the billboard company that ran the ads, agreed to work with officials to promote early voting instead, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

But in Pennsylvania a new set of billboard ads has some activists feeling hot under the collar, Deruy reports.

These Spanish-language ads instruct voters to show ID at the polls, despite a ruling that stopped Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law from going into effect before this election.

Pennsylvania State Department Director of Public Relations Nick Winkler explained that the ads are a small part of a $5-million educational campaign to notify voters that they will be asked to show identification at the polls.

Because of what the law stipulates, voters won't be turned away if they don't have ID this year, but it will be required in future elections, Winkler said.


quicklist:2category: Floridatitle: Voter Intimidation Letterstext: The Advancement Project provided ABC News with a copy of a letter sent to a Sarasota Florida voter that questioned his citizenship.

"The Sarasota County of Elections has received information from the Florida Division of Elections regarding your citizenship status, bringing into question your eligibility as a registered voter," the letter, dated October 18, 2012, read. The sign off at the end of the letter said, "Kathy Dent, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections."

Dent declared this type of letter fraudulent five days later.

"It has been brought to our attention that some Sarasota County voters have received a letter questioning their citizenship status and eligibility to vote from an entity that is not the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections. I want to make all Sarasota County voters aware that this mailing did not come from my office," Dent said in a statement. "Any correspondence concerning the eligibility of a Sarasota County voter that comes from the Sarasota elections office will include my signature (Kathy Dent) and will not require a response from the voter within 15 days."

A spokesperson for the Florida State Department said Republicans seem to be the biggest recipients of these letters, according to National Public Radio.


quicklist:3category: Ohiotitle: Election - November 8?text: A mailer sent out to residents of Danbury Township, Ohio, said voters could cast their ballots at the local high school on November 8 - two days after the actual election.

But the mailer wasn't a deliberate plot to disenfranchise those residents. JoAnn Friar, director of the Ottawa County Board of Elections, said after the board received a call from someone complaining about the mailer, they sent out corrected cards to the approximately 2,300 residents.

Friar said voters in Danbury Township tend to be well-informed, and she thinks it's a "good region for high turnout." She expected with or without the mailers, they would keep track of the real election date.


quicklist:4category: Ohiotitle: Absentee Ballotstext: In some Ohio counties, absentee voters aren't putting enough postage on their ballots.

Earlier this month, WCPO out of Cincinnati reported that the hefty weight of ballots in Hamilton County meant they required 65 cents worth of postage instead of the standard 45 cents.

Ballots vary in size depending on where a voter is registered because of what's on the ballot, according to spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Matt McClellan.

McClellan said the majority of Ohio counties list the required amount of postage on the ballot instructions, and that voters with questions can call their county board of elections to get more information.

But according to U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Patricia Licata, postage or no postage - those ballots will be delivered.

"We don't want to damage the election process in any way," Licata said in an interview Friday. "We want to make sure that people are not disenfranchised."

But voters who skimp on stamps won't get off scot free.

"We will, however, try to collect the postage after the fact," Licata said.


quicklist:5category: Iowatitle: Absentee Ballotstext: Several voters in Floyd County, Iowa were a little confused when they received absentee ballots in the mail this fall. What made these ballots questionable? The voters hadn't requested them.

Director for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Charis Paulson said concerned individuals reported the unauthorized ballots to the state, and when the applications requesting the ballots were pulled, voters confirmed that the signatures on those applications were fake.

The Des Moines Register reported Floyd County auditors first thought something was fishy when an election clerk found an incorrect birth date on an application.

Paulson said the state has an ongoing criminal investigation into the ballot fraud, during which they've spoken with staff at the Democratic Party in Floyd County.

In a separate case of voting irregularity, The Des Moines Register reported a Muscatine resident claimed after a visit from a Democratic campaign staffer, his elderly mother believed she could sign his name on an absentee ballot application.

Democratic campaign staff and volunteers sometimes act as middlemen between residents applying to vote absentee and the auditor's office, the Register reported.

"It is concerning to hear of cases of unauthorized absentee ballot paperwork being turned in by the Democrats in Iowa," RNC Communications Director in Iowa Tom Szold wrote in a statement to ABC News. "Integrity of elections are critical and a full investigation of these irregularities should be conducted."

Michael Hunt, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, said the party had conducted its own investigation into the Muscatine allegation and found there was no malice in that staffer's intentions.

"We take these types of situations and circumstances extremely seriously," Hunt said. "We take very seriously the training of our staff at all levels particularly those who are having the most direct contact with voters as our field staff is on a day-to-day basis."

"We are reaching out to hundreds of thousands of voters and if one or two cases have arised we feel like we've dealt with them," Hunt said.


quicklist:6category: New Hampshiretitle: Absentee Ballotstext: For New Hampshire absentee voters, postage wasn't the problem.

Granite Staters who can't make it in on Election Day must submit an application to their town clerks before receiving a ballot in the mail. But as of a week before the election, three N.H. voters told ABC News they still hadn't received their ballots.

New Hampshire Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said with an active absentee voting population this year, it didn't surprise him that a handful of voters might not get their ballots as planned.

However, Scanlan said, "I have not heard of reports of absentee ballots not getting to voters to the degree that it looks problematic."

If an applicant doesn't receive a ballot on time, Scanlan said it's up to the individual to contact the local or state offices to report that, though he wants all eligible voters to have a chance to cast their ballot. Voters can check the status of their ballot on the New Hampshire Secretary of State's website.

Nadia Chait, a New Hampshire native and New York University senior, submitted her application in August, but when she heard her friends had received their ballots in mid-October and she hadn't, she decided to follow up.

She called her town office in Croydon, and a town employee told her they did not have the application. Chait submitted her application in person, so she knew it couldn't have gotten lost in the mail.

With a night class on Monday and a morning class on Wednesday, Chait won't have time to make the six-hour drive home on Tuesday, so she faxed in a new application and received her ballot with enough time to return her vote.

Hopkinton voter Pamela Keilig didn't find out until Wednesday that her application had been lost - too late, she feared, to vote by mail. Absentee ballots are accepted by mail in New Hampshire until 5 p.m. on Election Day.

Still committed to voting, Keilig plans to drive from the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vt. to her town office in Hopkinton, N.H. - about an hour and 15 minute drive.

"It is an inconvenience, and I'm just glad that I'm in a position where I have a car, and don't have class on Tuesdays so that I can get home," Keilig wrote in an email.


quicklist:7category: Floridatitle: Hours-Long Lines at Early Votingtext: ABC's Matt Gutman reported Friday afternoon that there were three-to-four hour long lines at polling stations in Miami.

"We've been warned it takes 30 mins to fill out ballot," Gutman tweeted.

CBS in Miami reported voters across Southern Florida were experiencing these long waits.

Earlier that morning, ABC's Seni Tienabeso, Jr., tweeted a photo of Miami residents lining up to cast their ballots.

"Back from #sandy, time to help plan #abc Fl election night remote but first got to vote. 90 minute wait in Miami beach," Tienabeso tweeted.

Miami-Dade and Broward County post expected wait times on their websites. At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, the wait time in all Broward County voting locations except one was at least an hour long.

Despite the long lines, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced his decision not to extend early voting past its Saturday deadline at a GOP fundraiser Thursday, according to the Associated Press.