Originally created 11/04/04

Lengthy lines greet some voters



It took five minutes for Nikita Haskell, 18, to become a first-time voter Tuesday after being spurred on by the Vote or Die campaign of hip-hop entrepreneur Sean "P. Diddy" Combs to get young people to the polls.

"It was easy," she said outside the Henry Brigham Community Center. "I personally know a lot of African-Americans this time around are voting."

An influx of newly registered voters and intense interest in this year's presidential race led to fears of long lines on Election Day.

Lines were long in the morning but eased by mid-morning in most polling places.

But heavy turnout in Edgefield and Aiken counties contributed to a long wait at the polls.

At Edgefield County's Merriwether Middle School, early morning voters waited as long as 2 hours to cast their ballots, although the average wait had dwindled to 75 minutes by late afternoon.

The school serves as a polling location for two precincts and had eight voting machines available for 3,500 voters, election officials said.

With 11 precincts and 39 voting machines serving Edgefield County's 14,000 registered voters, there is a need to open more precincts in future elections, said Tricia Gordon, the director of the county's voter registration office.

After arriving at 7:15 a.m., Jeanine Atkinson stood in line for nearly three hours. She chatted with others in line to kill time.

"Mostly we talked about why South Carolina didn't have early voting," she said.

Fifty ballots cast by Paine College students Tuesday may not be counted.

When the students went to vote at Precinct 111, behind the college's Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel, their names weren't on the voter list, precinct manager Frances Ellis said.

Two Elections Board workers came to the site at noon to handle the problem, bringing provisional ballots so the students could vote until the matter is investigated.

Gloria Williams-Way, a Paine history professor and an NAACP poll watcher, said the college held several voter-registration drives during the year. She said she did not think any shenanigans were to blame.

Dean of Students Elias Etinge said rumors about someone illegally registering students on campus are untrue.

The Elections Board will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday to decide whether the provisional ballots should be counted.

In Augusta, Elizabeth Cave let two of her children play on the playground at Warren Road Community Center while she zipped in and voted in the afternoon.

She said she supports President Bush but does not want to see any post-election turmoil.

"I just hope it's decisive," she said, "and it's not tearing the country apart a week later."

Managing Editor Elizabeth Adams, Special Projects Editor Mike Wynn and Staff Writer Johnny Edwards contributed to this report.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.