Obama camp charging voting problems in PA
Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday April 22, 2008

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Update: Local campaign alleges 'dirty tricks' in voting problems

Barack Obama's campaign has been circulating anecdotal reports of voting machine problems in some Philadelphia precincts, according to news reports.

The site Election Journal has been compiling reports of voting machine malfunctions and other problems throughout the day Tuesday. Brad Friedman also is compiling reports of voting problems on his blog.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, several machines were malfunctioning in the city, leading one local candidates campaign to allege "dirty tricks" were the cause.

Readers and Inquirer reporters attempting to cast ballots this morning found long lines across the region created by broken machines.

One of two machines was down at a busy Delaware County polling site. About 50 people already had voted by 9:15 a.m. at the Temple Israel on Spruce and Bywood Avenue in Upper Darby, which is heavily populated by immigrant and first time voters. Many of those freshly-minted voters had difficulties using the one machine that still functioned. "Hell of a day for one of the machines to be down," said one poll worker.

In South Philadelphia, both voting machines were broken at 4th and Ritner, smack dab in the middle of a John Dougherty strong hold. "The dirty tricks have begun," said Frank Keel, spokesman for the Dougherty campaign, who sees a conspiracy.

A local elections official interviewed on MSNBC acknowledged some problems early Tuesday morning, but he said those had been resolved before midday. He denied reports that only one or two voting machines were functional in some predominantly African American neighborhoods.

"We had a few problems early on. We always do," Fred Voight, a deputy commissioner in Philadelphia told MSNBC.

Video of Voight's interview is available here.

He called reports of machines breaking down "flat out untrue" and said "everything is working throughout the city as we speak." The interview aired around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.

The Justice Department announced Monday that it would have monitors in Philadelphia to ensure compliance with voting laws.

Obama's campaign apparently passed along anecdotal reports of voting machine problems earlier Tuesday morning, MSNBC reported. Voight told the network that "campaigns are like four steps removed from where things are actually happening."

In two Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Obama's campaign also circulated reports of voting problems, according to the Tribune Review:

Obama's campaign said there were problems with machines in Lincoln Place and the Hill District, but county officials couldn't confirm that.

The Post Gazette also reported some minor problems but said they weren't causing major delays:

Because of the expected large turnout, election judges' difficulty getting machines started at a polling place in North Braddock and another in the city's Banksville section prompted some concern.

At these two sites, election judges, clerks and inspectors, all nominally paid volunteers, initially were unable to print out verification that the voting machines had been set at zero.

Nothing was wrong with the machines in either case, Mr. Wolosik said.

A technician was dispatched to each location and helped to properly set up the machines.

More than 30 people in Banksville and several more in North Braddock used emergency paper ballots to cast their votes.

Post-Gazette readers also reported problems at one or two polling stations this morning, including Graham Field and Beacon Hill in Wilkinsburg.

No details were available about those issues.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Philadelphia deputy commissioner Fred Voight