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Washington, D.C., Suffers Headaches as Early Voters Show Up at Election Board HQ

FoxNews    30 October 2008

Despite efforts to reduce long lines and voting irregularities on Election Day, thousands of voters this week have been waiting in line for hours at Washingon, D.C., Election Board headquarters to cast ballots in person after requested absentee ballots failed to arrive before the voting deadline.

In a city with no early voting rules, elections officials have been accommodating the in-person vote since many voters said they had requested ballots by mail but none came. With the deadline for absentee voting looming, voters said they didn't want to miss their chance to participate in the milestone election.

"I called them up this morning and they couldn't guarantee that my ballot would arrive by tomorrow and that I should come in and vote in person," Bewal Sewal told FOX News.

"So I'm here and I'm glad that I'm going to be able to vote but I'm extremely concerned that a lot of other people may be disenfranchised because of this."

Washington, D.C. like many states across the country has experienced its share of voting headaches. Election board officials said they sent out more than 16,000 absentee ballots but do not know yet how many did not reach their intended destination or why not.

"This could be the mail or any number of things," board spokesman Dan Murphy told FOXNews.com.

As many as 126 District voters were mailed incorrect absentee ballots by the board, which last week called it an isolated incident.

Across the country, more than 30 states allow early voting to boost turnout as well as to reduce Election Day lines. But this year's historic election has spurred long lines, machine breakdowns and mistakes by voters and poll workers.

Federal officials have poured $2 billion into new voting equipment since the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002 to address voting irregularities in the 2000 election. Nearly 2 million ballots were disqualified in that election because they registered multiple votes or none when run through vote-counting machines.

The act required all states and municipalities to upgrade many aspects of their election procedures, including their voting machines, registration processes and poll worker training. Each state has been allowed to determine how to implement the new procedures, which has led to varying interpretations of federal law.

Many watchdog groups and political observers say they fear this year's election will be plagued by voting irregularities.

Problems reported already have included votes for president jumping between candidates on touch screens in West Virginia and Texas; computer scanners not reading paper ballots in Florida, scanners in New Mexico not counting votes for president or the Senate and candidates' names disappearing from computer screens in South Carolina.

Tens of thousands of voters in at least six states appear to have been removed from voting rolls or blocked from registering as a result of mistakes in handling registrations and voter files in an attempt to comply with the 2002 act.

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