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November 3, 2004
Problems scattered at busy polls
Election workers rush to make fixes

By Kay Stewart
and Laura Bauer
The Courier-Journal

A heavy stream of voters withstood a steady rain, long lines and a few problems to cast their ballots yesterday in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

In Jefferson County, 71 percent of 475,805 registered voters cast ballots, the highest local turnout for a general election since a whopping 82percent voted in November 1992. Four years ago, during the last presidential race, turnout was 69percent.

Several Jefferson County precincts reported lines even before the polls opened at 6a.m., which is "a strong indicator to us that turnout was heavy," said Paula McCraney, a spokeswoman for the county clerk's office.

Other parts of the state, including Fayette and Warren counties, also reported early heavy turnout.

Les Fugate, spokesman for the secretary of state's office, was predicting a 70percent turnout statewide.

In 2000, Kentucky had a 61.3percent voter turnout. The state's record turnout also was in 1992, when about 73percent of voters cast ballots, he said.

Voter interest was apparent at precincts throughout the county. From the Harrods Creek Fire Department to Shawnee High School, parking lots were crowded and voters waited in lines.

Problems at the polls

The large turnout, along with a large number of first-time voters, may have been a factor in the problems at some precincts, said Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw.

Complaints ranged from broken voting machines to voters not being notified on where to cast their ballots.

A Courier-Journal reporter voting in Okolona said she was handed a ballot on which the question on the marriage amendment was already filled out. And in Jeffersontown, several voters reported not being given ballots that included City Council candidates.

Some recognized the mistake before casting their ballots, but others left unaware of the mistake. "I feel like we were disenfranchised," said Jeffersontown resident John Stofel, who said he didn't realize he was given the wrong ballot until more than an hour after he voted.

McCraney said most complaints were resolved as they came in; she said the Jeffersontown problem was a "human error" that will be investigated.

In Okolona, poll worker Bonnie Stinnett said "it was a simple mistake made by all of us" that led Courier-Journal reporter Scheri Smith to be given a ballot with the marriage question already answered.

Stinnett said two ballots apparently got stuck together, and when one was returned, workers failed to put it in the "spoiled" stack, and it was mistakenly handed to Smith.

Other voters reported frustrations with broken tabulating machines. Anthony Urbaites said that when he arrived at his polling place on Chamberlain Lane before 6a.m., about 100 people already were in line.

As he prepared to hand in his ballot, the machine kept breaking, he said. "They would put one (ballot) in, it would break. They put another in and it would break."

McCraney said the majority of the reports about broken machines were due to human error and not faulty machines. Technicians were dispatched immediately after a report of a broken machine came in, she said.

Last night, another glitch briefly delayed the final Jefferson County count. Data summaries for three precincts had to be manually fed into a computer recording the results; "it was just one of those things," McCraney said.

Indiana issues

Some Floyd County, Ind., residents who registered during a drive at Caesars Indiana Casino in September learned yesterday that their registrations never made it to the county clerk.

Officials said they were allowing the voters to cast provisional ballots, which were put aside and will be counted if it is determined they are properly registered.

Floyd County Clerk Eugenea Freiberger said yesterday that the voters had signed up at a Sept.10 event run jointly by Caesars and the Indiana League of Women Voters.

Edith Dallinger, president of the League of Women Voters, said her organization mailed all of the Indiana registrations to the Indiana Secretary of State's office in Indianapolis, which was to forward them to the appropriate counties.

Young voters

Of the 37,000 additional voters registered in Jefferson County since 2000, 21,650 were added to the voter rolls since the May primary, McCraney said.

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Denise Bentley, D-1st, said she was overwhelmed by the number of young voters she saw at her polling place in west Louisville.

"I've never seen that many black men between the ages of 18 and 25 (at the polls) before," she said.

Terrell Simmons, 19, said he walked several blocks in the rain to vote for the first time at his polling place at Shawnee High School because he wants to see change in the country's leadership. "We should be worried about our own country," and not Iraq, he said.

Ashley Berlin, a 19-year-old sophomore at Bellarmine University who was voting for the first time at a polling site at her school, said she thinks her vote can "make a difference. ... I think it's important to have a voice, even if it is only one vote."

Staff writer Harold J. Adams contributed to this story.


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