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Some complaints surface amid stepped-up efforts to monitor voting fraud

By Krissah Thompson Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 12:58 AM

Tea party supporters became poll watchers in precincts across Houston to guard against voter fraud. A fight over absentee ballots erupted as an issue in Pennsylvania. Democrats in Delaware accused Republicans of voter intimidation, and the Kansas attorney general is looking into deceptive calls telling voters to show up at the polls Wednesday.

The kind of voting irregularities, accusations of fraud and deceptive practices that have become endemic to Election Day continued Tuesday with reports of problems with voting machines, difficulties with voter registration and misleading pre-recorded calls.

All in all, it was a fairly typical day at the polls with problems, confined for the most part to a handful of jurisdictions and resolved quickly, according to reports from liberal and conservative groups that monitored the election.

"These are the same problems we have seen since we began doing election protection 80 years ago," said Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

In the Los Angeles area, residents reported receiving Spanish-language robo-calls reminding them to vote on Wednesday - one day after the election.

Voters in the Cleveland area complained of overcrowded polling places and confusion about poll locations, according to lawyers monitoring the election. They also reported that a 72-year-old African American man in Wayne County, Mich., was detained by police at his polling place after being accused by a challenger of "sneering" at him.

In Philadelphia, Fox News reported that a member of the New Black Panther Party, which created a still swirling political controversy with its presence at the polls in 2008. was back at the polling place without his billy-club-wielding colleague.

"There has been voter intimidation, deception and misinformation," said Wendy Weiser of the Voting Rights and Election Project at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice. "We are seeing an increase in these tactics. . . . It is fortunately not as widespread as we feared it might be."

Several Republican and tea-party-affiliated groups across the country took their citizen activism to the polls to stop what they say has been rampant abuse of the electoral system. The Kitchen Cabinet, a group composed of conservative women, sent representatives to all 50 states to monitor voting and set up an Election Day hotline to monitor for fraud. By 6 p.m., there were no major incidents reported, a spokeswoman said.

Anita MonCrief, a spokeswoman for the conservative American Majority, spent the day monitoring polling places in Houston.

Similarly, a group affiliated with King Street Patriots in Harris County, Tex., which had been subject to complaints in early voting that its members were unfairly challenging voters in predominantly minority districts, worked the polls without a major incident.

In several places, poll workers overstepped their bounds by asking voters for identification where it is not required. In Minnesota, where conservative groups had run radio ads and offered $500 rewards to those willing to turn in anyone prosecuted for voter fraud, a few poll watchers aggressively challenged voters until they were confronted by election protection volunteers, lawyers monitoring the election reported.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, which support tea party groups, said conservatives had also been targeted. More than 500 signs put up for Senate candidate Ken Buck (R) in Colorado were snatched overnight.

By the end of the day, few verifiable allegations of major voter intimidation or fraud had been lobbed - despite erroneous reports on the Web. Jack and Jill Politics, the liberal African-American-targeted political Web site, posted a report of tea-party- affiliated groups intimidating voters at Benedict College, a historically black university in Columbia, S.C. The reports turned out to be false; school officials said the students did not have the proper registration cards and were able to return to the polls after picking up the documents.

Most complaints were pedestrian. In New York, where voters had struggled with new voting machines, some complained about the size of type on the optical scan ballots. In Wisconsin, where Sen. Russell Feingold (D) lost the seat he has held for 18 years, turnout was heavy and the state's Government Accountability Board reported few problems. About 40 voters had been given the wrong ballots and others were asked to show identification, though the law does not require that voters show ID.

Staff writers Lois Romano and Garance Franke-Ruta contributed to this report.

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