PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Elections officials across Pennsylvania scrambled Tuesday to deal with a slew of voting problems, including an electronic voting machine that switched a vote from President Barack Obama to Mitt Romney, confusion over identification rules and concerns over a mural of Obama painted on the wall of a school being used as a polling location.
In Philadelphia, officials tried to get provisional ballots to voters who for some reason were not on the rolls as expected, said Stephanie Singer, chairwoman of the City Commission, which oversees elections. She said the cause was under investigation as she focused on making sure people could cast votes.
In central Pennsylvania, a voter trying to cast a ballot for Obama in Millerstown saw the machine switch his vote to Romney. The voter notified Perry County elections officials and posted video of it to YouTube, where it went viral.
Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said a "voter who had a problem tried to cast his ballot" and the machine switched the vote from Obama to Romney.
"He alerted the elections official," Ruman said. "They took that machine out of service, recalibrated it and it's working fine. It seems to have been a momentary glitch."
Perry County Commissioner Brenda Benner said in a statement that the person then voted on another machine without any reported problem. The county is "not aware of any votes that were improperly cast and counted," Benner said.
A Philadelphia judge ordered that a mural of Obama near the polls at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School be covered up after a Republican election worker captured a picture of it, according to the state Republican party.
A school district spokesman said the mural was painted in 2009 after students voted for inspirational figures whose likenesses they wanted in the school's cafeteria. The spokesman, Fernando Gallard, said it's up to the polling place judge to prepare the site for the election.
"Our only concern is that it not get damaged," Gallard said.
The Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based group that monitors elections, said it had fielded calls from "a multitude" of voters who believed they were registered but were told they were not, and therefore had to cast provisional ballots.
Lawyers representing the Obama campaign went to court in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon to complain that several city precincts were running low on provisional ballots, but the Committee of Seventy said the judge turned down the request for a court order. Election commissioners were fanning out to 120 of the city's 1,700 polling locations where more provisional ballots might be needed, and supplying the extra ballots as necessary.
State Rep. Brendan Boyle, of Philadelphia, who heads campaign efforts for House Democrats, said his polling place was down to one machine due to malfunctions, causing long lines.
In other issues, state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said 75 Republican election workers were prohibited from accessing polling places in heavily Democratic Philadelphia, prompting a court order. The incidents, Gleason said, ranged from judges of elections refusing to seat minority inspectors to reports of Democrats saying "No Republicans will be allowed in the polling place."
The Philadelphia district attorney's office was investigating a series of complaints regarding such minority voting inspectors, spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson said. Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to enforce the order after the judge ruled, Jamerson said.
There were scattered reports of elections materials at polling places that indicated photo IDs were required for voters, although a judge ruled last month that the voter ID law would not be in place for this election. Outside one polling place in Rochester, about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, an election worker shouted to a line of voters to "have your ID ready," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The Committee of Seventy said there were signs saying "You need a photo ID to vote" at a number of polling places in the city; it asked election judges to remove the signs immediately.
Last month, a state judge ordered the state's new voter ID law to be put on hold for this election. Under the law, voters will be asked to show ID, but it is not required to vote. Only voters appearing for the first time in a polling place must show ID, but that also includes things such as a bank statement or utility bill.