High Turnout, Long Lines, Voter ID Confusion: Americans Take to the Polls
Americans took to the polls today to elect a president and 468 members of Congress, including a third of the Senate. Seemingly high turnout meant voters waited in line for as long as four hours in Virginia, but also Ohio, and Florida. New York and New Jersey, both of which suffered infrastructure damage during hurricane Sandy, also reported long queues. In Ohio, people said faulty voting machines impeded the vote. In Pennsylvania, where a law that required voters to show identification was struck down, poll workers asked voters to show photo IDs and turned away those who didn’t. “Poll workers have been poorly and wrongfully trained, and they are standing there and sitting there and requiring people to show ID, and sending people home if they don’t have the ID,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Executive Director Barbara Arnwine at a press conference in Washington D.C. Arnwine’s organization said it received “thousands” of calls with complaints. In Florida, where a new law forbids voters to change their address when they are about to cast their ballots, students who were still registered at their home address had to use provisional ballots. Those who sought to protect their votes were encouraged to call the hotline 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Meanwhile, most pollsters predicted a win for incumbent Barack Obama. Exit polls showed a slim majority of voters approved of Obama’s record on jobs. At the time of publication, Obama had won Vermont’s three electoral votes. His opponent, the Republican Mitt Romney, had 13, with Kentucky and West Virginia. The campaigns spent a total $2.6 billion this year.
Fighting Rages in Syria as U.K. Suggests Immunity to Force Assad Departure
Gunmen in Syria’s capital Damascus killed the brother of Speaker of Parliament Jihad Laham, and more fatal bomb explosions shook the city today as combat continued to escalate. “We are planning to escalate our attacks on the areas of the government thugs,” said a member of the Jundullah Battalion, a unit of the Free Syrian Army of Sunni fundamentalists. Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, in an interview with Al Arabiya, said he would consider offering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad immunity to push him to step down. ”Anything, anything, to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria,” said Cameron, during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. “Of course I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain but if he wants to leave he could leave, that could be arranged.”
General Strike in Greece as Parliament Prepares to Vote on Austerity Measures
Greek workers took to the streets in the first day of a 48-hour general strike as Greece’s parliament prepared to vote on a controversial €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) austerity package. The spending cuts and tax hikes, which are expected to shrink gross domestic product by nine percent, should be approved tomorrow with a narrow majority and facilitate a €31 billion ($40 billion) payment, the next tranche of the bailout package granted to the country to prevent it from going into bankruptcy later this month. Lawmakers will have to face angry crowds, which have planned to gather on the steps of the parliament tomorrow, in numbers that are expected to be larger than those who demonstrated today. They are protesting planned cuts in pensions, benefits, and wages for civil servants.
Briton Killed by Gu Kailai in China Worked with British Spies
Neil Heywood, the British businessman who was poisoned by Gu Kailai, the wife of deposed politician Bo Xilai, provided the U.K. secret intelligence agency MI6 with information. Heywood worked as a “fixer” for Gu, helping her son to attend a private school in England. While the businessman, who also worked part time as a dealer for Aston Martin (the brand of James Bond’s car), wasn’t employed as an agent, he acted as a source on the Bo family, and had done so for over a year before he was killed, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal. This is yet another layer in the Bo Xilai affair, which shook the Chinese government in the months before a once-in-a-decade leadership transition. The new government will be announced in the 18th Communist Party Congress, which will start this Thursday.