Mid-afternoon finds small lines, or no lines at many polls

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Early morning crowds packed that packed precincts in Richmond and Columbia counties began to taper off at midday, but elections officials believe heavier turnout is a certainty in the afternoon and early evening hours.

Lynn Bailey, executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections, said today’s turnout will “without a doubt” set a new record for voter participation in Augusta.

Lines were long as polls opened at 7 a.m. and every telephone in the elections office was ringing non-stop. “By 11:30 the calls dwindled,” Mrs. Bailey said. “And out at some of the polls, not only were there no lines, but there were periods where there were no voters in the booths.”

Augusta, which has 106,615 registered voters eligible to participate in today’s election, also had its usual share of Election Day confusion, but the problems were both routine and predictable, she said.

“We have had maybe 10 phone calls with the ExpressPoll check-in computers coming out of sync,” she said. “This problem is easily remedied by rebooting the units. We have not had to shut down any voting units because of a malfunction.”

The elections office staffed its 52 polling sites and main office with approximately 600 workers, all prepared to stay as late as necessary as new crowds were expected to arrive by late afternoon.

At the main Elections Office in the Municipal Building, there was a steady stream of residents seeking information or applying for photo identification cards that would enable them to vote.

There were also some complaints from voters who had been purged from voting lists from inactivity. “In Georgia, the process is, if there is no contact with the voter in two consecutive general elections, which is six to eight years, then their name is taken off the books,” Mrs. Bailey said.

Those voters can re-register if they wish, but if they waited until today to do so, they still cannot participate in today’s election.

Those issues occur virtually each time there is an election, she said. “With tens of thousands of people, naturally, you can’t please everybody,” she said.

In Columbia County, where a large percentage of the county’s 80,380 registered voters are expected to visit the polls today, lines were long in the morning and shorter at midday, said Nancy Gay, registration coordinator for the Columbia County Board of Elections.

“I haven’t heard of any trouble,” she said. “Other than busy.”

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