Originally created 11/05/02

Election Day turnout strong



Despite today's drizzly weather and cooler temperatures, anecdotal observations from Augusta poll managers suggests that turnout for this year's state and local elections was nearing record highs.

Several Richmond County polling places were reporting better turnout by early afternoon than they saw all day during 2000 presidential elections.

Although some voters were facing waits up to an hour, many poll workers and voters were crediting the state's new touch-screen voting machines with speeding up the sometimes lengthy ballot process.

"This is better than any presidential election I have ever worked," Assistant Poll Manager Joey Johnson said of turnout at Julian Smith Casino. He has worked at the Broad Street polling place for two presidential elections and said although turnout was higher than usual today, lines were far shorter.

"These machines are wonderful," Mr. Johnson said. "We've had it steady like this all day - with this many people, we would (usually) have had lines out the door."

Instead, about 10 people were waiting to vote.

Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said the county has nearly 400 more volunteers working this year compared to previous years in an effort to ease voters' transition to the new voting machines. About 1,200 volunteers were trained on the new voting technology prior to Election Day, she said.

The extra help seemed to work, she said, noting that every precinct polling place opened on time at 7 a.m.

Those problems that were being reported included machines that crashed or locked up, but most were easily solved by turning the computer off and back on again, "just like you would your home computer," Mrs. Bailey said.

Computers that lock up during a vote automatically abort that ballot to avoid duplicate votes.

At Dyess Park, a machine quit working and had to be replaced with a new machine, said poll manager Charles G. Harris Jr.

Although he has managed the east Augusta polling place for the past 15 years, he said turnout Tuesday was above and beyond past years.

"Today we have surpassed the last presidential election by 30 percent," Mr. Harris said about 12:30 p.m. "And that's just so far."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.