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Blank cartridges delay final Washoe tally (NV)
RGJ.com. November 5, 2008. By Tammy Krikorian and Kristin Larsen

Despite a record volume of ballots, Washoe County voters mostly had an easy time voting Tuesday, with short lines and high turnout.

The Washoe County Registrar of Voters staff couldn't finish the tally about 1:15 a.m. today because of an unusually high number of cartridges from voting machines that contained no votes.

The 180,253 ballots cast were a new record for the county. The turnout of 77.88 percent slightly exceeded predictions but was less than the record of 84 percent in 1980.

When the final batch of cartridges was being processed, about 40 cartridges had no votes, said Kathy Carter, county spokeswoman. The system flagged them because it was such a high number.

The cartridges were among 1,300 cartridges used Tuesday and were being re-run to verify that they contained no votes. Each voting machine uses one cartridge.

Throughout the day, lines stayed short and the process went quickly for voters, something that officials credited to a record number of early and absentee voters.

"The day went really great," said Washoe County spokeswoman Mimi Fujii-Strickler. "We had a few lines in the morning, but after the first 30 to 45 minutes (it was) very smooth and steady all day long."

Carter said the nearly

44 percent of Washoe County's registered voters who voted early helped to make election day "tremendously easier."

In addition to the more than 100,000 early voters, more than 24,000 people requested absentee ballots,

90 percent of which were returned, not including those that came in on Tuesday.

"We've never had that amount of absentee ballots returned," she said. Carter estimated early and absentee ballots would account for more than 50 percent of registered voters in the county.

Registrar of voters Dan Burk is predicting a turnout of 80 percent or more when all votes are counted, which could set a record. The highest turnout in Washoe County was 84 percent in 1980 when Ronald Reagan ran for president, and the second highest was 82.7 percent for his second term in 1984.

Bob Cavakix, 62, Spanish Springs High School poll manager, said he has worked five elections and Tuesday's seemed to be most organized and efficient.

Problems that did arise on Tuesday were typically remedied at Washoe County polling locations.

A 40-year employee at Renown Health said she almost didn't get to vote because of confusion over her name.

She went to Jessie Beck school to vote and was told she'd already voted. Her name is Forest Lynn Allen, which is similar to a man in the area named Forrest Allen. Forest Lynn Allen said she's not sure what happened, but she suspects Forrest Allen absentee voted and her name got checked off accidentally as having voted.

She said the head poll worker was very helpful, as were people from the American Civil Liberties Union outside Jessie Beck. After an hour "not standing in line but getting this mess straightened out" she was able to vote.

A bevy of lawyers and hundreds of volunteers from California descended on Washoe County to ensure that voting went smoothly by acting as legal observers.

Zachary Radford, 29, of San Francisco, drove four hours from the Bay Area to make sure that the proper voting process was followed.

"I think the focus is on battleground states," he said. "There are a lot of colleagues of mine that are very committed to this process. There are so many new voters in this election, we don't want them to become disenfranchised."

Reno lawyer Shelly O'Neill acted as a precinct chair for district 7417 in Spanish Springs to ensure voter rights in the polling area were protected.

For the 14 hours she worked Tuesday, she made $105.

"It's a little below my usual wage," O'Neill said. "If you calculate what it costs us to miss a day's work, it really shows the level of our commitment.We're doing our civic duty."

"The Obama campaign encouraged all attorneys who support Obama to get involved in the process to ensure that it's fair," she said. "I'm very impressed with how Washoe County is handling it. The training covered every problem that could happen."

Long lines did not appear to be much of a concern for Washoe County voters after the initial rush of voters on Tuesday.

Kimble Corbridge, a poll manager at the Events Center at Red Hawk, said before the voting location opened at 7 a.m., there was a winding line of about 100 people, which extended down a hallway, but the line cleared after 40 minutes and voters were able to use the 24 machines with virtually no wait for the rest of the day.

"We got slammed here in the morning," Corbridge, 53, said.

Before the polls opened, Corbridge said four printer units malfunctioned, but the problem was rectified with new units before the polls opened.

She appreciated the instruction given to poll workers to keep poll open past

7 p.m. if there is a line when the polls are supposed to close.


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