Local Politics

In Triangle, few snafus hinder voting

Thousands of North Carolina voters eased through the voting process Tuesday. Gary Bartlett, director of the state Board of Elections, said that for the most part, Election Day proceeded as planned.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Thousands of North Carolina voters eased through the voting process Tuesday, officials said. Gary Bartlett, director of the state Board of Elections, said that for the most part, Election Day proceeded as planned.

"We have probably received the fewest number of calls in this office during my tenure," he said. Bartlett has been in the job for 16 years.

"The 2.6 million who voted during the absentee period have taken a lot of pressure (off) the infastructure of our elections," Bartlett added.

Only one polling place encountered a problem big enough to warrant extending voting hours.

At the Barwell Road Community Center in Raleigh, about 300 voters had to wait for ballots after an election judge saw her grandson drive away with them in his car. The delay lasted about 30 minutes.

The Wake County Board of Elections met Tuesday afternoon and extended the hours at that site until 8:30 p.m.

"We all agreed it was the safest route to go. Our goal has always been to make voting as easy and accessible as possible," said Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.

She noted that at least two people who left after the ballot confusion returned to vote later in the day.

In Durham, county Board of Elections staff voted to extend the hours at Pearsontown Elementary School until 7:50 p.m. after a nearby car crash knocked out power to the site for about 30 minutes Tuesday morning. The State Board of Elections overturned that decision, and the site closed at 7:30 p.m. as scheduled.

Poll workers cited a combination of inclement weather and record early voting for the lack of lines on Election Day. Bartlett backed off his earlier prediction that 2 million voters would cast ballots statewide on Election Day.

Poucher said the rain was causing the greatest problem.

Scanners were not accepting completed ballots at polling sites in Cameron Village, Cary and on Litchford Road, but Poucher pointed out that a malfunction like that did not impede anyone from voting.

Poucher suggested that voters, wet from the rain, were dripping on ballots, making them wet and harder to handle. She asked voters to dry their hands and be careful not to leave a wet sleeve on their ballots.

Completed ballots were still being collected, and would be scanned when machines were back on line, she said.

Cumberland County elections director Terri Robertson said damp ballots jammed vote-counting machines at some precincts in and around Fayetteville. Officials called all polling sites and told workers to hand out paper towels to voters to dry their hands before handing out ballots, she said.

Even during the lunch hour, polling places were not overly crowded. In most cases, the voting process worked smoothly.

One e-mail to WRAL.com said:

"I just wanted to let you know that my husband voted at Millbrook Elementary School (in Raleigh) this morning. It took him a total of 15 minutes to drive there, vote and drive home," she wrote. "There was no wait at all. I wonder if the early voting lines helped for today or were we all duped into believing we would have to wait 4 to 5 hours if we didn't vote early?"

In Wake County, there are about 175,000 more registered voters than for the 2004 election. To accommodate the surge in voters, the county has added 25 polling places.

Gary Sims, deputy director of the Wake County Board of Elections, predicted 200,000 people would cast ballots at county’s 198 polling places.

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Erin Hartness, Reporter
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