Local voters head to the polls
02:01 PM PST on Tuesday, November 8, 2005
By MARISA AGHA and GREGOR McGAVIN / The Press-Enterprise
Voters across Riverside and San Bernardino counties set out to vote in today's special election deciding on eight statewide propositions as well as local measures and races.
In Riverside County, voter Elizabeth Scott-Jones reported that she had trouble voting for one candidate in the Riverside Unified School District board race at Fairmount Park. The machine would not allow her to one candidate, she said.
She and husband Gary Jones who tried several machines, told a poll worker and ended up voting by paper ballots. The poll worker closed the first machine, but the others remained open, said Scott-Jones.
"They didn't tell anyone else there was a problem," she said. "That's wrong."
"When I called the registrar's office, they didn't really seem concerned."
Riverside County Registrar Barbara Dunmore said that a lead poll worker at the precinct called her and that she believes the voter misunderstood a review screen that tells the voter they can vote for more candidates, if they want.
"This is what we would consider an operator's error," Dunmore said.
"It's just a reminder that you did not vote for the number of candidates that you are eligible to vote for," she said of the review screen.
The machine does allow voters to vote for one candidate in a race, Dunmore said.
Would be voters at one San Bernardino County polling place had to either wait two hours or leave and try to vote at another time or place.
Voting officials said a county poll inspector failed to show up at Highland Congregational Church, which was scheduled to open for voting at 7 a.m.
"A lot of people just left," said Odette McGinnis, 50, of Highland. "They didn't have any idea how long it would take."
Dereck Wymer, who works for the county registrar of voters, said he didn't know why the inspector failed to appear with the official bag containing the roster of registered voters, provisional ballots and other items needed to record votes.
Wymer was sent as a replacement inspector and arrived at 8:45 a.m. He said the polls opened at 9:00 a.m.
"It was just a delay," he said. "Everyone seemed to take it in stride."
Some voters, however, said they were seriously inconvenienced.
McGinnis, who teaches at San Bernardino Community College, said her schedule was flexible enough that she could still vote. When she arrived at the Highland Church at 8:20 a.m., there were about 15 people waiting to vote. She called the county Registrar of Voters office in San Bernardino and was told she could vote there, which she did at about 9:10 a.m.
"I couldn't have made it back to polls tonight," she said by telephone. The delay "will not keep me from voting, but it does irritate me."
By 10:15 a.m., voting was going smoothly at the Highland church. A dozen or so people cast their ballots at any given time and most said they were making it through the process in 10 or 15 minutes.
"It was fine," said Margaret Robison, 74, of Highland. "You just do what it says on the screen."
Phyllis Patty, 67, of San Bernardino said she had a few problems but managed to figure things out for herself.
"I finally read the instructions," she said.
Stella Fawehinmi returned to Highland Congregational to vote at around 11 a.m., after originally showing up there around 8 a.m. Fawehinmi, 47, hails from Nigeria and became a U.S. citizen in August. She couldn't wait to vote as an American for the first time.
"I was so excited - I've been up since 6:30," she said.
Poll workers told her and others to go to the Registrar of Voters office in San Bernardino, but she went home instead.
"I said 'this is ridiculous,'" she said
Then a neighbor called hours later to say the polling place was working.
Fahwehinmi walked eagerly up the sidewalk to the church to finally vote.
"It's my right," she said.