Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Afternoon Election Day updates

1:30 p.m.: Evangelical United Methodist Church (New Holland Borough, First District)

At the Evangelical United Methodist Church in New Holland, they had seen 482 voters as of about 1:45 p.m, according to Judge of Elections Don Weaver. There are 1,279 registered voters in the precinct. Both Weaver and the two present poll watchers - one from the McCain/Palin campaign and the other from the Obama/Biden campaign - indicated that they did not encounter any troublesome voter behavior within the polling place, although one of the poll watchers noted that a democratic-supporter outside the polling place had gotten into a tussle with a voter of the opposite persuasion earlier in the day. I did not see anyone outside of the door I entered, but it was lightly raining at the time. Weaver said that four or five provisional ballots were cast when the residency/identity of an individual could not be immediately determined. He and his fellow poll workers indicated that the Elections Bureau instructed them to offer voters the paper ballots first, but to permit them to use the eSlate if requested. Weaver said that 49 persons had used the eSlate, including three of four disabled persons. Weaver indicated that 15-20 people were waiting outside the polling place when they first opened the doors at 7:00 a.m. There was virtually no line at the time of visit. He also said that seven ballots had to be "spoiled" and re-issued when voters did not mark the ballots properly. When a voter does not mark the ballot properly (e.g. votes more than once), the eScan ballot reader is designed to spit the ballot back out. Asked how turnout in this election compares to that in previous ones, Weaver said it was difficult to tell since the church is a new polling place, split off from a previous one - the fire hall.

3:00 p.m.: Ephrata Township Municipal Building (Ephrata Township, Murrell-District)

At the Ephrata Township Municipal Building, about 814 people had voted as of shortly after 3:00 p.m. There are about 1,800 people in the district, according to Judge of Elections Joan Zerby. In 2004, they saw about 1,000 people turn out. "I have a feeling that we'll hit at least twelve or thirteen hundred," she said. Zerby went on to note that the wait time for voting was "ten minutes max" but as I was leaving my interview with the poll workers, a longer line seemed to be quickly forming in the hallway. The staff noted that one poll watcher was present, from the Lancaster County Republicans. She was noting the names of those who had not yet voted so that they could be called and reminded to vote. Zerby shared that a ballot got stuck in one of the eScan machines at one point. The ballot had been scanned but did not completely drop into the storage bin beneath. She said she and her fellow poll workers were able to pull the ballot out of the machine fully intact. Eileen Beccone, one of the Clerks of Elections, noted that two or three provisional ballots had been issued to individuals whose identity/residency status could not be immediately verified. Two individuals came to the wrong polling place. Beccone estimated that a third of voters in her precinct choose to use the eSlate rather than the paper ballot. There were representatives of both the Obama campaign and a "Vote NO on Home Rule" group in the lobby of the building. They made themselves available to talk, but did not seem pushy.

4:45 p.m.: Quarryville Borough Office (Borough of Quarryville)

A cold rain didn't stop voters from waiting at least a half hour to vote down in Quarryville. That was the length one young man at the front of the line indicated he had been waiting. Although it may have grown a little, there has been a sizable line all day, says Judge of Elections John Haneman.

According to Haneman, 813 people had voted when he was queried shortly before 5 p.m. That's a little more than 50% of the precinct's 1,575 eligible voters. Haneman says that in the 2004 Presidential Electon, turnout reached 90%. He expects to meet or exceed that figure this time.

Haneman says that he has issued 13 provisional ballots to persons whose identity could not immediately be verified, and that eight to ten persons had mistakenly come to the Quarryville Municipal Building thinking that it was their polling place when it was not.

Poll watchers from both major political parties have made visits to the precinct. A representative of the Republican Party was seen in the lobby of the building, distributing literature.

Haneman says that, although he affirmatively offers the paper ballots, the proportion of voters who elect to use the paper ballots as opposed to the machine is about 50/50.

Haneman said that would-be voters must be in line at 8:00 p.m. At that time, he says, a constable will stand at the end of the line and no one else will be allowed into the line. But as long as you get in line before 8:00 p.m., they are obligated to let you vote, no matter how long the line is.