Monday, November 3, 2008

WASHINGTON TURNOUT: My Experience with Early Voting in Renton, Washington

We have an update on early voting in Washington from Naomi Ishisaka, Communications Director of OneAmerica. If the lines are already this long in Washington, imagine how long they'll be on Election Day.

“I am a regular poll voter because I enjoy the process of voting and have never had any trouble voting at the polls in the past, however since I would be working all day on Election Day, I wanted to vote early to make sure I was not unable to vote. I first tried to vote early on Friday at around 4:30 pm but when I arrived I was told the wait would be one and a half hours. I was advised to come back the next day before the center opened at 9 a.m.

I was frustrated about this so I called the King County Elections Department to complain. They were closed. I listened to the automated message that said it had all the information about the upcoming election, but amazingly, the message had not been updated since August. The automated line says, “The next scheduled election is the primary election on Tues. August 19.” It is incredible the line has not been updated for information about Nov. 4.

When I came back the next day, the line was twice as long as it was the night before. I was told people had been waiting outside since 7:30 a.m. to vote. I talked to a poll worker who said it would likely be several hours of waiting. I left and then came back around noon when I had more time to wait. By the time I got there at around noon, the line was stretched around the building and the wait time was three hours. I waited – along with a huge group of people who were disproportionately young and non-white – for the three hours for my chance to vote. After several lines and much patience, I finally got my chance to use the Diebold voting machine and cast my ballot. While I was there, several people I know called the Elections Department to express their desire for the polling places to extend their hours and open on Sunday and were met with an astounding array of responses, including, “Well, people spend hours waiting in line for Disneyland or a movie, so that’s their choice,” or to me, “Well you should just get a book, relax and enjoy it.” Most of the people who were there to vote came because they were afraid that by Tuesday, the lines would be so long at their polling places they would not be able to get off enough time from work to vote. The local media here has been incredibly credulous about all this, quoting the Elections Department spokeswoman as saying that ‘people are happy to wait and would be happy to wait even longer’ without talking to any voters for their opinion.”

We will send additional posts regarding general GOTV information for the blog later today.

Voters waiting in line around noon on Saturday at the King County Elections Center in Renton.

Sympathetic passersby bring donuts for waiting voters at the King County Elections Center on Saturday.

Once inside the Elections Center the wait was an additional two hours long.

There are only six voting machines in the Elections Center."

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