Updates All Day on How Newspapers Are Covering the Madhouse! With Polls Closed, Obama Wins It!

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By: Joe Strupp

The busiest Election Day in years is hitting local newspapers and their Web sites hard. Look for high voter turnout, high news coverage, high drama, and some controversies. Follow it here — new material added at the top — and send us any tips to jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com.

9:30 pm. The three networks call Ohio for Obama, seemingly giving him the White House.

4:31 p.m.

The New York Times finally joined the Los Angeles Times in reporting some of the biggest voting problems nationwide, in a report on its “The Caucus” blog about the flood of complaints to Election Protection Coalition, noting some 47,000 calls came in today to 30 lawyer-equipped locations throughout the country.

The Caucus also tallied a string of legal challenges today.

Among them:

? “The Ohio Republican Party re-filed a lawsuit it previously dropped against the Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, claiming that she has not done enough to ensure that provisional ballots are counted properly and uniformly in all counties across the state.”

? “In Virginia, Mr. McCain?s campaign filed a lawsuit Monday asking a federal judge to order the Virginia election board to count ballots from overseas military personnel until Nov. 14, a 10-day extension that the campaign said is necessary because ballots were distributed late.

? “The president of the North Carolina NAACP said his group plans to file federal and state charges of voter intimidation and suppression against a man in North Carolina who displayed a coffin at a polling place decorated anti-Obama stickers and signs that indicated it was for ‘Joe the Plumber’ who died after being ‘taxed to death.’?

? “In Indiana, a lawsuit was filed challenging a decision by the Marion County board of elections that rejected voter registrations that were submitted on old forms that officials said did not contain required information.”

It also reports, “The Justice Department?s Civil Rights Division sent about 800 observers and staff members to 59 jurisdictions in 23 states, including Chesterfield County, Va., where voters said ballot shortages and delays kept them from voting in the presidential primaries.”

3:54 p.m.

The Los Angeles Times, which started early reporting voting problems nationwide and appears to be giving more attention to them than other major daily papers, updates this afternoon with reports that some 41,000 calls have come into the Election Protection Coalition’s (866) OUR-VOTE hotline by midday, “including 1,400 from Florida and more than 1,000 from Ohio.”

“Heavy voter turnout overwhelmed polling places in the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, prompting tens of thousands of complaints about long waits, missing ballots and malfunctioning voting machines,” an updated story said. “Most trouble spots had been identified ahead of the voting by the, a vote-monitoring cooperative uniting dozens of nonpartisan civil-rights and public- policy groups.”

“We certainly don’t want to be Chicken Little here. We’re trying to report what we’re seeing out in the field. But this is what we expected to happen,” Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections, told the Times. “The infrastructure of our election isn’t really equipped to handle this kind of turnout.”

Among the findings:

? In North Carolina, where extended early voting allowed half of registered voters to cast their ballots ahead of election day, lines were more manageable and problems fewer, Goldman said.

? Voters in Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio faced waits of up to four hours, according to the coalition.

?Widespread breakdowns of electronic voting machines and jamming of optical scanners for paper ballots were reported throughout Florida.

3:25 p.m.

Forget paper ballots and electronic voting, it’s all jelly beans for one Ohio restaurant poll.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Hyde Park Hitching Post restaurant conducted its own poll using the sweet Easter-time favorites. “The family-owned restaurant at 2715 Madison Rd., which boasts the ‘world?s best fried chicken,’ allowed people to vote for seven weeks, ending Sunday,” the Enquirer reports. “More than 3,100 customers dropped jelly beans into mason jars, casting their vote for Republican nominee John McCain or Democratic hopeful Barack Obama.”

The results: Obama won with 52.4 percent over McCain?s 47.6 percent, owner Frank Kahsar told the paper, which reports even Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory cast his bean.

2:51 p.m.

In Delaware County, Pa., things are apparently getting ugly with Democrats claiming Republicans are intimidating voters with tables that are set up outside polling places, according to Philly.com, the Web site of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

“Republican campaign workers are manning the tables and are asking for voters’ names and party affiliation,” a Web posting says.

“The Republican are acting like it’s an official check in sheet,” Democratic strategist Tom Hickey states on the site. “You walk up and they say ‘What’s your name?’ But it’s not an official place.”

“Hickey said officers from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched to three sites in Ridley Township to dismantle tables,” the posting adds. “The sheriff’s department did not answer calls requesting confirmation and comment.”

2:50 p.m.

Then there is actor Jerry Stiller, he of Seinfeld “Frank Costanza” fame and father of Ben, who is reportedly getting the vote out in Lackawanna County, Pa., according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.

The paper adds that “Mr. Stiller is the latest in a line of celebrities who have come to Scranton to stump for their candidates in the final hours of the campaign, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was scheduled to appear at Republican headquarters on Lackawanna Avenue on Monday night on behalf of the McCain-Palin presidential ticket.”

2:38 p.m.

For many newspapers, tonight will be the first time they let readers, via Web video, into the newsroom. From The New York Times to The Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio, editors are promising tours of the newsroom and live updates about returns.

Brags the Fort Worth (Tex.) Star-Telegram: “Reporters will sit in to provide information and analysis on key races and events at the polls. We will visit the Tarrant County Democratic and Republican watching parties at local hotels and hear from local voters on the historic nature of Tuesday’s vote.”

2:19 p.m.

At the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it is apparently not enough to report activity at local polling places, and those with long lines. The Wisconsin daily has set up a Web site with Google maps to pinpoint many of the area’s polling sites and offer reader-and staff-supplied information on waiting times. The quick snapshots look like this:

3410 N Maryland Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211
11:50 a.m. — very short wait after long early a.m. lines (staff)

1:35 p.m.

(By Dexter Hill) According to the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News, a 92-year-old woman wasn’t going to let a stroke keep her from casting her vote.

Betty Owen hasn’t been able to walk since she suffered a stroke four years ago, according to the Express-News. Since her daughter failed to arrange for her mother to vote by absentee ballot, she made up for it at the last minute by arranging an ambulance to transport Owen from her retirement home to her poling location for free, according to the article.

“I couldn’t find mom’s voer registration card,” the daughter told the Express-News. “I didn’t know you didn’t need it for an absentee ballot. And then I found it yesterday.”

In the polling location’s parking lot, an election judge and support worker climbed into the ambulance with an electronic voting machine. Owen, dressed in her Sunday best, cast her vote. The former president of the League of
Women Voters in Memphis, Tenn. cast a straight Democratic ballot this year, according to the Express-News.

12:55 p.m.

It appears all four major presidential and vice-presidential candidates have voted, but at least one, Sarah Palin, is not saying for whom she cast her ballot.

The Anchorage Daily News, whose reporter is twittering as she follows Palin around Wasilla, Alaska, writes: “asked about who she was voting for, she headed off Ted Stevens question: I am also exercising my right to privacy and I don’ t have to tell.”

Frank James at the Chicago Tribune blog, “The Swamp,” confirms the news: “Citing her right to privacy, Gov. Sarah Palin refused to say who she voted for after emerging from her polling place in Wasilla, Alaska. That’s right, she wouldn’t say she voted for her own presidential ticket. We assume she did, but she stood on principle and wouldn’t say. She did say the secret ballot was one of the ‘cool’ things about the U.S. Agreed.”

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, tells the New York Post she gladly voted Obama. “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has cast her vote for Barack Obama, saying that voters understand that the nation needs ‘a serious president for serious times,'” the Post reports. “Clinton voted Tuesday with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in their hometown of Chappaqua in New York’s Westchester County.”

12:36 p.m.

Paper ballots are being used in many places to offer a quicker vote option when long lines or computer glitches occur, according to several papers.

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reports that the Franklin County Board of Elections “voted yesterday to require polling supervisors to tell voters they have the option to vote using either a touch-screen machine or paper ballot if there are more than 20 people in line.”

The Dispatch also had varied reports of minor glitches on its election blog, from one polling place allowing voters for several minutes to vote electronically only for Ralph Nader to another declaring several voters wrongly unregistered. The paper reported both problems were quickly fixed.

12:34 p.m.

Add the non-profit investigative news outlet ProPublica to the election reporting aggregate team. Seeking both election-related stories and reports on voting problems, Propublica’s Web site is posting and organizing such information from numerous states on its Web site, ProPublica.org.

12:11 p.m.

CNN and MSNBC have nothing on The Arizona Republic, John McCain’s home state daily, which is running a continuous live video show of Election Day news and notes. Online viewers can see everything from on-site live interviews with election officials to reports from voting sites to an interview with the paper’s political cartoonist. It is even streaming across the bottom with live election news, a la the annoying cable news crawls.

See it at:


11:55 a.m.

Close to noon and The Washington Post’s Vote Monitor, which tallies reports of voting problems, shows mostly smooth sailing. Reader reports came from as close as Maryland and Virginia to as far away as Arizona. A breakdown of issues and non-issues at the site were as follows:

Access Issue (1)
Electioneering/Intimidation (1)
Location Issue (2)
Identification Issue (3)
Registration Issue (4)
Voting Glitch (3)
Other (13)
No Voting Issue (133)

11:38 a.m.

The top story at the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times’ Web sites appears to be plans for Barack Obama’s massive celebration in Grant Park tonight. The Sun-Times is warning would-be participants about pitfalls, while also offering a “Grant Park Cam.” At the Tribune, readers can check in on the Obama Grant Park Rally category of its Breaking News blog.

Among the posted items, the names of the first two brothers, Tom Kreiglstein, 28, and Dan Kreiglstein, 29, to camp out overnight in line for the Tuesday night event, expected to draw 70,000.

11:14 a.m.

Philly.com, the Web site for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, is cutting its election advertising a little close to the reporting.

Online users going to the site, at least this morning, are greeted with a half-screen Obama “CHANGE” ad and a small link to further Obama propaganda just above its main page election stories.

11:13 a.m.

The first reports of voting machine breakdowns are coming in. What a surprise.

The Los Angeles Times reports several on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

“Reporting from Washington — Voting machine malfunctions and other problems were exacerbating long lines at polling places in several key battlegrounds as voting got underway on the East Coast and in the Midwest this morning, election monitors reported,” writes the Times’ Noam N. Levey. “There have already been breakdowns in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, according to reports gathered by the Election Protection Coalition, a cooperative effort by more than dozen voting rights groups.”

Levey adds that, “all three cities were high on the list of expected hot spots where problems were feared. The coalition, which by 9:30 a.m. EST had received nearly 11,000 reports of problems, has also fielded complaints about polling places not opening on time in Virginia, where long lines have been predicted for weeks.”

10:53 a.m.

Is spending Election Day morning with Sarah Palin akin to combat duty? That is the way the Anchorage Daily News is presenting its reporter Julia O’Malley’s assignment today as she follows the GOP Veep nominee and twitters reports from a news van following close behind the Alaskan governor’s voting in Wasilla, Alaska.

“Follow reporter Julia O’Malley as she spends the morning embedded with Gov. Palin’s campaign during a quick election-day stop in Alaska,” the Web site says. “She’ll catch up with Palin at the airport (very early) today and ride to Wasilla along with the motorcade, where the governor will cast her vote.”

First reports include:

“counted a dozen vans and SUVs in the motorcade, totally blowing through lights.” “sirens through downtown about 2 hours ago.” “she was wearing jeans and a black fleece.” “Plane rolled in. Sarah emerged. Hugged supporters and got into a waiting black SUV.”

“big posse of Secret Service guys, standing near a table piled with old pizza boxes, all wearing black.”

10:50 a.m.

Rocky Mountain News in Denver reports that state officials probably won’t have official results until midnight local time. The crush of early voting ballots will be announced starting at 7 p.m. but they anticipate long delays in processing today’s vote. At:


10:37 a.m.

Newspapers are using their Web sites more than ever on this Election Day, including several offering ways for readers/voters to report problems. Among them:

The New York Times reporting them at The Caucus blog and asking voting problems to be emailed politics@nytimes.com

The Washington Post blog, “Vote Monitor” does the same at:

CNN has a “Voter Hotline” interactive map where users can click on their state to see how many complaints have been registered, which, among other features, shows the top three counties registering the most complaints. Go to http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/voter.hotline/

The Huffington Post is also in on the action, seeking problems e-mailed to hufftips@gmail.com

10:36 a.m.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland pays homage to all past presidents on its front page today with portraits of commanders-in-chief, from George Washington to George W. Both Barack Obama and John McCain are also in the group, but clearly as wanna-bees. See it at the E&P Pub:


10:05 a.m.

Plenty of newspapers are offering how-to guides today — from where to vote to how the votes are tallied. Poynter.org, that repository of news-gathering information, went back to the 1970’s for the “Schoolhouse Rock” animated guide. For those too young to remember, this Saturday morning series gave some of us the first info on voting, congress and multiplication tables.

The You Tube link is here:

10:05 a.m.

Pizza is an Election Night tradition in most newsrooms. But perhaps cost-cutting sparked this memo from Susan Spring, director of newsroom operations at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

“I want to remind you that pizza will be provided tomorrow night ONLY for those working on elections,” the memo, first posted on the Poynter.org Romensko site said. “Please be polite. If you are working elections, you may have up to TWO slices. Thank you in advance for being considerate.”

Likely seeking to avoid a newsroom rebellion, Executive Editor John Drescher followed with this: “There will be no two-slice limit Tuesday night (although if Susan Spring chases you with a knife in her hand, you are on your own). And anyone who is here can partake.”

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