Fears of Long Election Lines Persist

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5,000 poll workers will be on hand across Franklin County tomorrow to assist voters at the polls on Election Day. By tomorrow, more than 273,000 residents of the county will have voted early. Twice as many voting machines will be available this year. And voters have the option to use a paper ballot. Still some voters are skeptical about the possibility of an problem-free election.

The African American Center on Mount Vernon is one of Franklin County’s 534 polling locations. Just across the street, Keith Lee and his neighbors reminisce about the long lines they encountered during the last presidential election.

“I was in line, when we were trying to get Kerry in office, I stood in line, for what, three and a half hours at Deshler Elementary,” Lee says. “[I'll]never forget it.”

Four years ago Election Day was rainy and at times frustrating in Columbus. Some precincts – especially in predominantly black neighborhoods -had large turnouts but not enough voting machines. It’s estimated that as many as 15,000 people in the city may have given up trying to vote and walked away.

Things have changed in Ohio since the Bush-Kerry contest of 2004. The state now permits no-fault absentee voting otherwise known as early voting. And more than a quarter of registered Franklin County voters have already taken advantage of the process.

More than 4,000 voting machines will be in use on Election Day; twice as many as four years ago. And according to Ben Piscitelli of the Franklin County Board of Elections, anyone who wants to vote using a paper ballot at the polls may do so.

We’ve printed 400,000 paper ballots for the county; enough for nearly half of the voters registered in the county so people can use that optional paper ballot if they don’t want to wait for a machine to open or if they just prefer to vote on paper.”

More machines, paper ballots, early voting, don’t necessarily translate into voter confidence. Sonja Alexander says long lines should not deter voters from casting their ballots.

“They turn around, they get discouraged,” Alexander says. “But I say don’t turn around, don’t get discouraged it’s going to be all for the betterment, take a book, pack a lunch, whatever it takes, but vote, vote, vote!”

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