Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

Long Lines, Scattered Problems Greet Voters

By Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Voters crowded polling places this morning as Election Day began in the Washington region.

Some scattered problems were reported. At the Crestwood Elementary School in Fairfax County, for example, two of the four touch-screen voting machines malfunctioned and some voters had to wait in line for an hour and a half before the problems were resolved.

Fernando Boccanera, who voted at about 7 a.m. at the Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston, said the school's parking lot couldn't accommodate all the voters, so they began to park along the street. When he left, he said, police had ticketed at least 20 cars.

Jean Jensen, the secretary of Virginia's Board of Elections, said the morning voting had generally gone smoothly throughout the state. She had heard of two problems: One in Richmond, where the wrong candidates for the 3rd District Congressional race were on the ballot; the other in Hanover County, just north of Richmond, where all three machines in a polling place were out of service for an hour.

Elections officials in Maryland, the District and Virginia had expected a heavy turnout today, based on the voter interest signaled by new registrations and requests for absentee ballots. Reports of long lines were noteworthy for a region in which politicians and pundits say the outcome of many contests is predictable, based on party registration and voting trends.

In the District, polls will be open until 8 p.m. The presidential contest, U.S. House delegate and school board and council seats are on the ballot.

Polls in Maryland also are open until 8 p.m. as voters cast ballots in the presidential election and contests for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Some local contests and referendum questions also appear on the ballots.

Virginia voters have until 7 p.m. to choose their candidates for president and Congress and decide whether to add two amendments to the state Constitution. Voters in some jurisdictions in Northern Virginia also will vote on local offices and ballot questions.

The voting weather will remain pleasant, forecasters said, with temperatures in the 60s and a mix of sun and clouds.

Whatever candidates they were backing, many voters shared the experience of long lines and crowded parking lots at their polling places.

In the District, polling places were packed with people on their way to work who had hoped to beat the voting rush.

"I wasn't early enough," said Jim Dunton, 45, as he patiently stood in line at 8 a.m. at Foundry United Methodist Church in Northwest, where the wait was about an hour. Dunton wouldn't divulge which presidential candidate he supported, but he said "there are life and death issues at stake here."

The long lines kept precinct captains busy. "Everything is all right so far," said Jordan Davis, precinct captain at Foundry United. "I'm still alive."

City election officials had scrambled at the last minute to find enough poll workers and volunteers. On Sunday, Sandra Lindsay, who had signed up to volunteer at the polls, got the call to be a precinct captain because of the shortage of workers.

"They didn't really train me," she said of her one-day class on Sunday. Lindsay said she learned the most about the touch-screen and optical-scan voting machines on Monday when she came to Browne Junior High School in Northeast Washington to set up.

D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey had said police would be on hand to monitor polling sites. At the former Rabaut Jr. High School building in Northwest, a lone police officer watched traffic on Peabody Street while voting took place around the corner.

 Similar crowding was reported in Prince George's County this morning.

Bob MacKinnon, 75, has been working the polls for more than two decades and voting for twice that long.

But as MacKinnon stood outside of the Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, all he could do was shake his head as people tried in vain to find parking in a full lot.

"This is supposed to be quiet time. This is usually the slow time in the election," MacKinnon said at mid-morning. "I have never seen it this busy at this precinct, and I have been voting here for more than 40 years."

While Prince George's County is a heavily Democratic area, voters in New Carrollton expressed a variety of opinions on the presidential candidates.

Larry Martin, 76, said, "I don't trust the Republican Party."

"I think it's important to vote, period. And this particular time is crucial."

"We have to give the Republicans a rebuff and even the playing field, even the way things are."

His wife had a different view.

"I voted for Bush because I trust him," said Georgia Martin, 71. There are good things about him and things I don't like. I was undecided until I went into the polls. I have vacillated for the last three months."

There were at least 100 people in line to vote at the school. Some people brought chairs to sit in while they waited. One voter compared the ordeal to waiting for a ride at Disney World.

At the Crestwood Elementary School, polling place for the 415th precinct of Fairfax County, one of the four machines wouldn't open. Another operated for an hour and then shut down.

Some people waited for an hour and a half. Others decided to come back later. Elections officials started passing out paper ballots. The problem lasted for about an hour. Then, technicians repaired the two machines and brought in a fifth one. By 10:30, the line was moving pretty smoothly.

Voters trying to cast their ballot this morning at the Fairlington Community Center in Arlington County encountered lines that snaked back and forth inside the long brick building and waits that lasted more than an hour and a half.

Rather than being annoyed, voters were enthusiastic that so many of their fellow Virginians were exercising their right to vote.

"I'm psyched!" said Bonnie Jo Chittum, 46, who was at the community center to help distribute Democratic sample ballots. Chittum, who has lived in Fairlington for 18 years, said the massive voter turnout was highly unusual.

"There's never been this many people before," Chittum said. "Normally you could just come in and vote."

Shannon Watson, 37, arrived at the polls at 8:45 a.m. She waited about 55 minutes before casting her ballot. The turnout couldn't have pleased her more.

"I've never seen lines as long as this," said Watson, a U.S. Department of Transportation employee. "It's just great."

Inside the polling booth she cast her vote for Kerry, who she said has a vision for the nation she would like to see realized.

"He sees an America that's made up of more than rich, white corporate interests and so do I," Watson said.

Margaret Shannon, 60, got to the polls at 5:45 a.m., hoping to get in line early and out of the voting both before the lines got out of control. No such luck. She turned around and headed home. She returned to the polls at 10 a.m. Thirty minutes later she was done voting.

Voters interviewed at Fairlington said they had little trouble with the voting touch screens. A few complained that the buttons were perhaps not sensitive enough, requiring one or two taps before a vote was recorded.

"Some of the buttons you needed to touch twice to make it take," said one woman who asked not to be identified. "But it worked. I'm confident my vote was cast the way I intended," she said with a wry smile.

If there were complaints, it was about an absence of seating for the elderly and disabled as their waited nearly two hours to cast their ballots.

At Centreville High School in Fairfax County's Clifton area, long lines of voters spilled from the cafeteria into the hallway outside. Several voters said they came prepared for the long wait about two hours during the morning rush with some carrying travel mugs of coffee while others flipped through books or chatted on their cell phones.

Sereina Delarosa, 39, a pharmaceutical consultant who stood in line with her two young daughters, said this election marks a significant change in her voting record. For the first time in her life, Delarosa said, she decided to support a Democratic presidential candidate.

Delarosa, of Clifton, said she worries the situation in Iraq is worsening and thinks the United States needs to work harder to create alliances with other countries.

"I'm a Republican who is voting for Kerry," Delarosa said. "I feel like Bush put us in the war at the wrong time and without the research. It's not like I think Kerry can get us out tomorrow, but I think he can get us in the right direction."

Some voters at Emerick Elementary School in heavily Republican Loudoun County said concerns about national defense pushed them toward the current commander in chief.

"You get to choose," said Bush voter and volunteer firefighter Margaret Horgan, 42, of Purcellville, who argued that the Kerry is incapable of the muscular foreign policy needed to prevent another terrorist attack.

"You get to increase your taxes or go to war. I'll always go to war. It worked in Hiroshima," said Horgan, whose 20-year-old daughter is in the Navy. "The Democrats are going to wipe you out, and the Republicans will send you to war. The Republicans will stand up and say, 'You're not going to keep slapping us in the face.'"

Horgan said she voted along party lines for GOP incumbent Frank R. Wolf in the 10th Congressional District, as well as for local bond issues.

Yoga instructor Kim Burwell, 44, of Purcellville, said security and pocketbook concerns led her to vote for Bush. Her husband works at a defense contractor in the field of ballistic missile defense, a key Bush policy initiative she fears would be slashed under Kerry.

High defense spending is "important to me, from a protection perspective, and it employs my household," said Burwell, who describes herself as an independent and said she voted for President Clinton in the 1990s.

Burwell voted for Democratic congressional challenger James Socas because she approved of his approach to local issues. She added that security was not a concern for her in her rural western Loudoun polling place.

"I live in the peaceful little burg of Purcellville," she said.

Previous Page

Election Problem Log image
2004 to 2009


Accessibility Issues
Accessibility Issues

Cost Comparisons
Cost Comparisons

Flyers & Handouts

VotersUnite News Exclusives

Search by

Copyright © 2004-2010 VotersUnite!