Breaking news this evening: election voting was marred by violence that killed three people and closed polling places across the country.
About 11 percent fewer polling places opened than originally estimated as election day violence spilled onto the streets. Sarah Goodscott is tracking the situation in our election center. Sarah?
Thanks, Bip. Federal election officials have decried the outbreaks of violence that have killed at least three people across the country and injured hundreds.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that his organization had tracked 135 separate clashes.
Increasing militarization and conflict at polling places had been predicted before the election, but no one was anticipating anything like this.
Security concerns clearly had an impact on voter turnout.
"I wanted to vote, but what I heard was happening at the polls I decided not to." This 70-year old woman from Philadelphia said she had voted in every election since 1960 until today.
Prior to the election, the New Black Panthers, the SEIU, ACORN and other left-leaning organizations had promised to "ensure a fair election by maintaining a presence at every polling location."
But in Chicago, ACORN protesters accosted voters wearing American flag pins.
In Lowell, Massachusetts a gunfight erupted after more than a dozen Republicans were denied entry to a polling place by members of the SEIU.
In East Los Angeles, a shootout raged for more than three hours between members of an unidentified leftist group and police after dozens of reports of voter intimidation.
The fight only ended after a heavily armed National Guard unit arrived at the scene. Two persons were killed and more than two dozen injured in that incident alone.
Philadelphia was arguably the birthplace of the militarized polling place, after the controversial 2008 incident in which New Black Panther Party members harrassed voters.
In a 2009 interview, civil rights attorney Bartle Bull called the incident "the most blatant form of voter intimidation he had ever seen."
"I watched the two uniformed men confront voters and attempt to intimidate voters. They were positioned in a location that forced every voter to pass in close proximity to them. The weapon was openly displayed and brandished in plain sight of voters."
"They tried to interfere with the work of other poll observers ... whom the uniformed men apparently believed did not share their preferences politically... one of the Panthers turned toward the white poll observers and said 'you are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.'"
Why, then did President Obama, and the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder, decide to drop charges against the Panthers?
No one knows the answer to that question, but there is no dispute that the incident encouraged lawlessness at polling places across the country this time around.
Officials across the country have promised that investigations will get to the bottom of this terrible day in American history, but some are already decrying November 2, 2010 as an ominous milestone.
Speaking today at the National Press Club, talk show pundit and best-selling author Mark Levin called it "the day the United States became a third-world country. When the President and the Attorney General conspire to abrogate the rule of law, as they did in the 2008 Panther case, this sort of anarchy is inevitable. This is a terrible, terrible day in American history."
This is Sarah Goodscott reporting from Washington.
Postscript: Obviously, I hope and pray that this sort of thing never happens. But I fear that tolerating voter intimidation -- in any of its forms -- is antithetical to Democracy. That would be the case if any legitimate voter were denied their right to vote, no matter their skin color, ethnicity or religion. But the precedent set by Obama and Holder is an ominous one. If our polling places are not kept pristine from the threat of violence, then our Democracy is truly on the precipice.