Lines short in midstate as voting comes to a close

November 4, 2008 

Polls around Middle Georgia opened early this morning with the expected long lines for voting. But by early afternoon, lines at most precincts were much shorter.

At the Mabel White Baptist Church polling place, there was no wait at 6 p.m. A few people were filling out paperwork to verify their voter registrations, but there was no line to get to a voting machine. Although poll workers said lines were lengthy after the precinct opened this morning, lines diminished significantly throughout the day.

The expected late evening push at area polling places never materialized, if spot checks of five local polling places are any indication. Not only were there no lines to vote at East Macon 1, 2 and 3, there were empty voting machines. Poll managers at Godfrey precincts in south Macon said the after work crush they expected never materialized.

"At first I wasn't going to come because I thought the lines were going to be too long," said Kaqueline Hall, 26, who voted at the River Edge Behavioral Health voting precinct in East Macon about 6 p.m. "It wasn't even seven minutes and I was in, knew who I was voting for and out."

"It was real convenient."

There was no late afternoon voting surge at Hutchings Career Academy. Shortly before 6 p.m., there were just six people at the site either voting or waiting to vote.

"They've been coming in slowly," said Janice Clay, the poll manager. "We'll have a spurt, then it'll slack off. Everybody's been real nice, real patient."

Just after 6 p.m. there were no waits to cast a ballot at three north Macon precincts on Wimbish Road. At Northminster Presbyterian Church, poll worker Jerry Smith said, "It's going to be slow the rest of the way in. But we've had our fair share. We've had a good turnout."

Just before noon, Elaine Carr, Bibb County's elections supervisor, said so far there have been no major problems.

"They've been going great so far," Carr said.

There were some lines early this morning, she said, but they have dwindled in the late morning hours. She expects polls to remain steady but quiet until the workday ends.

"Then it'll start all over," she said.

Shortly before 1 p.m., there was no wait to vote at the precinct at Progressive Christian Academy on Madison Street near downtown Macon.

At the polling place at the River Edge facility on Emery Highway in Macon, poll manager Linda Flagg said voting had been steady and more than 300 people had voted by 12:30 p.m.

"This morning we had about 75 to 100 waiting at 7 a.m., about a 30-minute wait," she said. "It's been a good day."

By early afternoon, there were no lines at the Godfrey 5 precinct at Jesse Rice Elementary School or the Rutland 1 precinct at Mikado Baptist Church in south Bibb County.

And during the lunch hour there were no lines at Rutland 2 on Allen Road in south Bibb County or at Godfrey 2 at Unionville Church on Houston Ave. The slim lunch time crowd belied what poll managers said should still be record turnout.

"We had a line all the way around there all day," Godrey 2 manager Nancy Brown said. "We've had over 300 voters already. ... Sometimes we don't get that on a whole day."

Several voters said they encountered long lines this morning, but came back to find little to no wait.

"At 9:30 there was cars parked all the way down to Houston Road," said Charles Smith, who returned to Rutland 2 to vote with his wife, Sue, about 1 p.m.

Lines at the Pentecostal Temple location on Anthony Road were getting shorter this afternoon after staying long through late morning.

The average wait at the central Macon poll near Ballard-Hudson Middle School was between 1 1/2 and two hours late this morning. But the line was significantly shorter this afternoon.

Poll managers at both locations said they expect another surge around 4 p.m., particularly as people leave work at Robins Air Force Base.

At about 11 a.m., the lines to vote were less than 20 minutes long at Mabel White Baptist Church on Bass Road and the Elam Alexander School on Ridge Avenue in Macon. At Hutchings Career Center on Riverside Drive, the voting process took fewer than 5 minutes.

At True Faith Church of God on Jeffersonville Road, poll manager W. Faye Butts said it's been "kind of steady. They come in spurts." "I doubt if we've had a line more than 20 minutes," she said shortly after noon.

At Macon's Vineville 1 precinct at Progressive Christian Academy, a steady stream of voters filed in before the lunch hour. The precinct's six voting machines were set up in the school's gym – a larger space than has been used in past elections – but there was no significant line at 11:30 a.m. Most people were able to cast their ballots in fewer than 10 minutes.

Across Georgia, Secretary of State Karen Handel was reporting few problems today, according to a news release.

“Nearly all of Georgia’s 3,000 voting precincts opened this morning on time and without complication,” Handel said in the release. “The agency’s Office of Inspector General quickly dispatched monitors or technicians to assist poll managers in three precincts that did not open on time, and wait times are averaging from ‘no wait’ to just under an hour statewide. Additionally, the Secretary of State’s Office has received no complaints regarding the photo ID requirement.” More than 15,000 poll workers are assisting county election officials and precinct managers today at Georgia’s 3,000 voting precincts. Additionally, the Secretary of State’s Office of Inspector General and the Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems deployed over 150 election monitors, including investigators and technicians, to serve as rapid responders to assist the counties and voters with issues or questions, the release said.

Early this morning, wait times were at about an hour at several polling places in Bibb County, including Mabel White Baptist Church, Northminster Presbyterian Church on Wimbish Road, North Macon Presbyterian Church on Rivoli Road and the Pentecostal Temple on Anthony Road.

When polls opened at 7 a.m., more than 100 people were in line to vote at each of those precincts.

At Northminster Presbyterian Church on Wimbish Road, voting was slow because one of the two machines the precinct used to check identification was not working. A technician was called in and the problem was solved at about 7:30 a.m. But at 8 a.m. fewer than 80 people had voted.

At Hutchings, about 40 men and women waited in line to vote shortly after 8 a.m.

They filled out a voter certificate, then stood in one of three lines for a poll worker to verify their name and address and to ready their voting card to cast a ballot. From start to finish, it was taking about a half-hour for most voters, a little less for some.

How busy was it? Since the doors opened at 7 a.m., "I haven't had time to look up," said poll worker Janice Nordan.

There were five voting machines in the room. Once voters checked in and were cleared to vote, it took about 10 minutes to get to a machine.

One voter at Hutchings, Brendan Rowley, said he didn't mind the short wait.

"It was the most crowded I've ever seen it," he said. Still, "I'm really glad I didn't go last week," with reports of two- and three-hour waits. "Twenty minutes isn't too much to ask."

Rowley said his wife, Amy, left their house to vote just as polls opened, and it took her about an hour to cast her vote.

HOUSTON COUNTY VOTING

Election officials in Houston County are reporting a smooth election day thus far. Early this morning, voters endured waits as long as an hour or a little longer as many voters anticipated long lines and wanted to cast their ballots before they went to work.

Debra Presswood, Houston County elections clerk, said soon after the morning rush, the flow of voters became constant with waits taking anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes.

But from experience, Presswood said, she knows the next big influx will be after people get off work. "We're expecting for it to pick back up around 3:30 p.m.," Presswood said.

Some 26,668 people took advantage of the early voting that ended last week, Presswood said, and another 3,472 received mail-in ballots.

"That's 41 percent who've already voted," she said. "We anticipate another 40 percent today."

The county has 69,152 active registered voters, she said, with another 10,298 inactive voters, or those who haven't voted in a while. They're still eligible to vote today, she added.

Early this morning in Warner Robins, at the Houston County Career and Technology Center at Corder Road and Russell Parkway, a little more than 200 voters were in a line that stretched down a hallway and 100 feet outside the building when polls opened.

A couple who arrived at 6:15 a.m., 45 minutes before the doors opened, said there were 20 people ahead of them.

At 8:15, the line was still about 200 people strong.

The average wait time in the early morning crush was about an hour and 10 minutes from arrival to walking out with the "I'm a Georgia voter" peach sticker.

Voters casting ballots at Northside Middle School this morning reported a similar wait of about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

Shawne Nixon, 53, of Warner Robins, was in line about 20 minutes before polls opened at 7 a.m. at the Houston County Annex on Carl Vinson Parkway. The line stretched about 150 feet.

Nixon, who works at a dental office, said she had tried to vote twice during advance voting but the lines were too long with an estimated wait of three to four hours.

Nixon said she decided, “I’ll just have to wait till Election Day, and if I have to wait till midnight, I’ll wait to midnight.”

Nixon reached the voting machines to cast her ballot about 15 minutes after polls opened.

PEACH COUNTY VOTING

Voting is running smoothly in Peach County's seven precincts. Latrelle Alford, the county's director of voter registration, said voting appeared heaviest at precinct 3 near Fort Valley State College.

"One of our precincts in Byron had a line this morning, but it went away by noon," she said. "We've had no problems to this point. Everything's running smoothly. Just the telephones are busy."

Peach County Elections Supervisor Michelle Riley noted that 42 percent of the county's 14,521 registered voters -- 6,080 people -- took advantage of early voting through last week.

"That's a tremendous amount for us," she said.

JONES COUNTY VOTING

In Jones County, there were 58 people in line to vote when the Hawkins precinct poll at Jones County Fire Station No. 8 at Gray Highway and Rock Creek Road opened at 7 a.m. The line was moving quickly, and it took only about 35 minutes for the first 50 voters to vote using the seven touch-screen computers being used.

Becky Purser, Oby Brown, Woody Marshall, Sherrie Marshall, Randolph Murray, Renee Martinez, Stephanie Hartley, Beth MacFadyen, Chuck Thompson, Jake Jacobs, Jennifer Burk, Matt Barnwell, Ashley Tusan Joyner, Andy Drury, Gene Rector and Travis Fain contributed to this report.

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