Surge in interest clogs election monitoring website

Volunteers fielded 50,000 calls in just the first few hours

Election monitors and technology experts at the Verified Voting Foundation expected that their Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) would be a popular source of information about voting mishaps as millions of US citizens took to the polls in the November 2 presidential election — but maybe not quite so popular.

Besieged by requests for access to its sophisticated database of field reports of voting irregularities from across the nation, the public face of EIRS, www.voteprotect.org, slowed to a crawl Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, Eastern Standard Time (EST), systems administrators were rushing to bring additional servers on line to accommodate the crush of activity, according to Will Doherty, executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation.

EIRS was hastily created by a collection of groups including Verified Voting and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility to help voter protection organizations identify and respond to voting irregularities, according to the Verified Voting website.

The system was developed in a "code sprint" during June and July and used for the first time for the primary election in Florida on August 31. Hotline operators at call centers in Florida and Washington, DC, recorded about 300 incidents at polls that day, according to the website.

But that test paled in comparison to Tuesday, when EIRS began collecting information from 23 callcentres and 40 legal assistance centers around the country, noting everything from malfunctioning electronic voting machines to voter intimidation and long lines, Doherty said.

Volunteers fielded 50,000 calls in just the first few hours after polls opened on the East Coast of the US, logging more than 7,400 incidents before 2 pm EST, including about 500 incidents linked to electronic voting technology, he said.

"We're doing triage," Doherty said at the time.

Verified Voting plans to eventually enter all the events reported to its callcentres in the EIRS system, but on Tuesday it was focusing on those that required immediate response, he said.

Voteprotect.org offered curious internet surfers an interactive, colour-coded map of the United States that tracked reported incidents of various types of voting irregularities. Visitors could drill down to individual states and counties to see what kinds of problems have been reported to EIRS phone operators.

By Tuesday evening, Eastern Standard Time, response time at Voteprotect.org had improved.

Doherty hopes that the website and the efforts of volunteers in the field relieve popular anxiety about the integrity of the election system.

"It's encouraging to see voter protection efforts help by responding to specific incidents and by creating an atmosphere in which people feel the rights of voters are being protected," he said.

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