Long lines appear to be biggest problem for voters

Lines stretched around buildings and down city blocks as people waited hours to cast ballots in the historic presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. Touchscreen voting machines malfunctioned in some precincts, yet voting Tuesday appeared to go smoothly.

The biggest trouble was big crowds. But folks seemed to take it in stride.

“People are happy and smiling,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin said as he voted at a Maryland school. “People are very anxious to be voting. They really think they are part of history, and they are.”

In the East, electronic machine glitches forced some New Jersey voters to cast paper ballots. In New York, eager voters started lining up before dawn, prompting erroneous reports that some precincts weren’t opening on time.

In the West, Californians also faced long lines, but voting went smoothly. In Orange County, south of Los Angeles, about 400 people were on hand to treat problems with the county’s all-electronic voting system, said Brett Rowley of the registrar’s office.

“We’ve got paper ballots as a backup,” he said.

Heavy rain plunged a handful of Los Angeles polling places into the dark, forcing some to move voting booths outside until electricity was restored. Voting didn’t stop.

In Texas, record numbers of voters who cast ballots before Election Day were credited with easing turnout on Tuesday. There were some hourlong waits and traffic was steady, but voting officials reported few problems. During that state’s primary, long lines stretched for hours and ballots ran out.

“It’s amazing,” said Jacque Callanen, elections administrator for Bexar County, home to San Antonio. “There’s happy people out there.”

At Virginia’s George Mason University in Fairfax, Provost Peter N. Stevens sent a campus-wide e-mail announcing a bogus electronic notice had been sent to all students saying Election Day had been moved to Wednesday.

“I am sure everybody realizes this is a hoax, it is also a serious offense and we are looking into it,” he wrote.

Turnout rates as high as 80 percent were expected in Virginia and California, the country’s most populous state and the highest holder of electoral votes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell urged voters to “hang in there” during Tuesday’s huge showing in that hotly contested state.

Hundreds converged on polling precincts in Missouri, another crucial battleground site. Norma Storms, a 78-year-old resident of Raytown, said her driveway was filled with cars left by voters who couldn’t get into nearby parking lots.

“I have never seen anything like this in all my born days,” she said. “I am just astounded.”

In some places the wait lasted hours, and lines stretched for half a mile.

“Well, I think I feel somehow strong and energized to stand here even without food and water,” said Alexandria, Va., resident Ahmed Bowling, facing a very long line. “What matters is to cast my vote.”

Some voting advocates worried that — tolerant voters or no — the nation’s myriad election systems could stagger later in the day, when people getting off work hit the polls.

“We have a system that wasn’t ready for huge turnout,” said Tova Wang of the government watchdog group Common Cause. “People have to wait for hours. Some people can do that. Some people can’t. This is not the way to run a democracy.”

Ohio, which experienced extreme voting delays in the last hours of the 2004 election, had some jammed paper problems in Franklin County. “We’re taking care of things like that,” said elections spokesman Ben Piscitelli. “But there’s nothing major or systemic.”

Perhaps the most bizarre barrier to voting was a truck that hit a utility pole in St. Paul, Minn.’s Merriam Park neighborhood. The accident knocked out power to two polling stations for about 90 minutes. Joe Mansky, Ramsey County’s elections manager, said voting continued at those sites.

Election judges said the ballots were kept secure at one of the locations until the power was restored and the ballots could be run through an electronic machine, while a backup generator kicked in at the other site.

Late Monday, McCain’s campaign sued the Virginia electoral board, trying to force the state to count late-arriving military ballots from overseas. No hearing has been set.

McCain, the Republican candidate and a POW during the Vietnam War, asked a federal judge to order state election officials to count absentee ballots mailed from abroad that arrive as late as Nov. 14.

Late Tuesday, the judge ruled he will hear the lawsuit on Nov. 10. He ordered election officials to keep late-arriving ballots until then.

In Pennsylvania, lawyers for the NAACP’s Philadelphia branch filed a lawsuit to force Philadelphia County election officials to count emergency paper ballots when the polls close Tuesday. Election officials have said they planned to count these ballots Friday.

Lawsuits have become common fodder in election battles. The 2000 recount meltdown in Florida was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

What is uncommon about Tuesday’s contest is the sheer number of voters expected to descend on more than 7,000 election jurisdictions across the country. Voter registration numbers are up 7.3 percent from the last presidential election.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Retooling drug laws, protecting octopus and honoring a cactus

It’s already Day 26. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

April Berg, left, and John Lovick
Snohomish County legislators talk race, policy in Seattle

Rep. April Berg and Sen. John Lovick chatted about Tyre Nichols and education at an event kicking off Black History Month.

Tala Davey-Wraight, 3, is thrown in the air by her dad Oscar Davey-Wraight, one of the Summer Meltdown headliners also known as Opiuo, during Cory Wong’s set on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After Monroe debut, no Summer Meltdown music fest in 2023

Organizers announced Wednesday they would “take the year off in order to figure out the best path forward for Summer Meltdown in 2024.”

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
High winds in Everett, north Puget Sound expected Friday

Winds could top 40 mph in Everett — and likely higher farther north — causing power outages and tree damage.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mountlake Terrace council taps planning commissioner for open seat

With five votes, Rory Paine-Donovan was affirmed to join the ranks of the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

Federal agents seized many pounds of meth and heroin, along with thousands of suspected fentanyl pills, at a 10-acre property east of Arlington in mid-December 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office) 20201223
Leader of Snohomish County fentanyl, meth ring gets federal prison

A search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington unearthed kilos of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Karla Wislon holds a champagne glass while celebrating the closing sale of her home in Palm Springs, Ca. on May 14, 2021. (Family photo)
Former state Rep. Karla Wilson, 88, remembered as ‘smart, energetic’

Wilson served the 39th Legislative district from 1985 to 1991. She died Dec. 31.

Most Read