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Many Strand voters find long lines at precincts
Some say too few machines in place for huge turnout
By Jenny Burns for the Sun News 03 November 2004

Voters at Carolina Forest waited in a three-hour-long line that snaked through the elementary school's cafeteria and around the outside of the building to make their choice for president, on local races and on referendums.

"It is just too long. I don't think the average person will wait," said Sam Starkes, 47, who walked out of the voting booth about 6:20 p.m. after arriving at 3:30 p.m. He read his Time magazine from cover to cover and then was only halfway through the line.

Long lines and some voting machine breakdowns caused waits for voters at some precincts. Complicated ballots, changed precinct locations and parking problems also added to voter frustration.

Machines at about five precincts in Georgetown County were down when the polls first opened, and voters had to cast paper ballots.

Meanwhile, officials say this election had record turnout.

"The long lines and problems experienced by voters in Horry County on Tuesday were to be expected in such a high-turnout election," said Sandy Martin, director of registration and elections for Horry County.

Overall, she said the election went nearly as well as expected, and the office ordered an extra 100 machines for the election. "We haven't heard of any major problems," she said.

However, voters reported problems throughout the Grand Strand.

When machines did break or voters had questions that poll managers couldn't answer, many Horry County poll managers said the phone lines to the Horry County Board of Registration were busy.

"The phones have been ringing off the hook. It wouldn't matter how many phone lines we had, it just wouldn't be enough," Martin said.

The Carolina Forest precinct had four voting machines for 2,003 voters, but one went down around noon, and poll manager Mary Baldwin said technicians were notified but were not able to fix it.

Baldwin said she was shocked at the turnout and had never seen lines such as those she saw Tuesday in her six years of running the Carolina Forest precinct. She said the precinct had seen 900 new voters added since September.

"The last general election, people were able to come in and vote and leave," she said.

At the Forestbrook precinct, five voting booths were down in the morning and were fixed within 30 minutes, clerk Stewart Strothers said. The wait there was about an hour.

Polling sites that had been changed from previous locations also caused confusion.

The Burgess voting poll was moved from St. James Elementary to Burgess Community Center, and voters complained about a lack of parking and long lines.

The county moved the Burgess precinct to the Burgess Community Center because the old polling place had cramped rooms, and the Community Center was recommended by Burgess residents, Martin said.

"That's something we can move," she said. "We tried it; if it didn't work, we can move it again."

Long lines were reported throughout the area.

The Deerfield precinct was switched from Plantation Resort to Deertrack Resort, and voters there said they saw no signs pointing to the new location.

North Myrtle Beach and Little River precincts reported long lines in the morning but no lines in the evening.

Ocean Drive 1 precinct had one machine out in the morning, but it was fixed by 10 a.m. North Myrtle Beach Middle School had one machine broken. It was fixed by noon.

Voters and poll workers said long wording on the referendums also were increasing wait times.

Back at Carolina Forest, Brenda Mancil voted a challenged, or provisional, ballot because she refused to wait three hours.

"We're from California, and I have never seen anything like this," Mancil said as she handed a poll worker her paper ballot. "This should not be acceptable to anyone."

Her husband, Ron Mancil, didn't vote that day because he couldn't get away from running his business to wait three hours.

People in Carolina Forest saw long lines in the morning and decided to come back later - but the lines stretched for at least two hours all day, poll workers said. Those who returned in the evening waited three hours.

"How could someone think three or four machines for Carolina Forest is plenty?" Ron Mancil asked.

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