Tameika Ogburn, a polling site assistant manager, prepares voting machines before a voting location opens for Georgia's primary election, March 1, 2016, in Atlanta. 
Photo by David Goldman/AP

Scattered problems for voters at polling sites, especially in the South

Updated

As voters in 12 states head to the polls for Super Tuesday, there are scattered reports of election problems — especially in the South.

Officials at Election Protection, a coalition of groups that runs an election-day hotline to help voters who encounter problems, say the phone lines have been busy, with about 1,500 calls as of around 5:45 p.m. ET. The highest volume came from Texas, Georgia and Alabama, with Virginia and Colorado also well represented.

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Many of the calls came from voters who have moved recently and want to know whether they can still vote at their old poling location, said Kristen Clarke, the executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which helps lead the effort.

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Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee all have voter ID laws in effect, and it’s not known what impact they’ll have on voting. Texas’ law is the strictest — it’s been struck down by three different courts, but remains in effect while appeals are ongoing.

A strict interpretation of the law ended up disenfranchising Taylor Thompson, a student at Texas State University in San Marcos. Thompson’s name on the voter registration card she received in the mail was incorrectly spelled “Tayllor Megan Rose Thompson.” Because it didn’t match her name on her photo ID, which is “Taylor Megon-Rose Thompson,” she was barred from voting. Nor was she was offered a provisional ballot, which would have allowed her to return in the next six days to straighten out the problem and have her vote counted.

Thompson said it would have been her first time voting and she wasn’t sure of the rules, so she didn’t make a fuss.

“It was kind of upsetting,” Thompson said. As a young progressive in conservative Texas, getting to vote “felt like it put more power into my hands,” she added. “And then to not get to do it kind of sucks.”

A Dallas-area man told Election Protection he tried to vote with his TSA employee ID but was forced to vote a provisional ballot. Under the ID law, federal government IDs aren’t accepted.*

Clarke said the websites run by the Alabama and Texas secretaries of state to help voters figure out where they can vote have both been down at times throughout the morning. Election Protection notified both states of the problem. A Colorado site that gives information on voter registration was also said to be experiencing glitches. 

In Georgia, voters in heavily minority Fulton County, as well as Gwinnett County, waited in long lines because poll books malfunctioned, Election Protection reported. 

Several voters in Fulton County also reported that their polling places had been moved without notice, causing confusion.

Meanwhile in Arkansas, at least one polling place offered misleading information on voter ID. According to a photo on Twitter, a sign told voters: “Please Have Your ID Ready.” In fact, ID is not required to vote in Arkansas, though poll workers are supposed to ask for it. A stricter ID law was struck down by the courts in 2014.

Virginia’s ID law, in effect for the first time in a major election, caused problems, according to an AP reporter. 

And some voters in the Knoxville, Tennessee area reportedly waited over two hours to vote.

At one Houston-area location, there was confusion. Several voters arrived at the Juergens Hall Community Center in Cypress, Texas, to cast their ballots, only to find it was closed, said Kimberly Stafford, who was scheduled to volunteer there as a poll worker for a Texas Democratic campaign. A volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign was also assigned to work the location, and was frantically working to direct voters to an alternative site, Stafford said.

A spokeswoman for the Harris County Board of Elections told MSNBC the site was an early voting location, but was never scheduled to be used Tuesday. But that appears to have been poorly understood. It’s a problem that has cropped up before in Texas before, where early voting sites are often different from those open on election day.

“People were just wandering around, there were no signs, nothing,” Stafford told MSNBC.

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia vote today.

Voters can report problems to the Election Protection hotline by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

*This paragraph has been  corrected from an earlier version which said that federal government IDs are allowed under Texas’s ID law, and that the man was not offered a provisional ballot. In fact, federal government IDs aren’t accepted, and the man was offered a provisional ballot.

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Scattered problems for voters at polling sites, especially in the South

Updated