Thousands turn out to vote early

November 4, 2008 1:20:03 AM PST
People continued standing in line after the Alameda Elections Office closed Monday. Throughout the day people were excited to vote. Despite rain,they came and stood in line for their chance to go inside and vote.

People continued standing in line after the Alameda Elections Office closed Monday. Throughout the day people were excited to vote. Despite rain,they came and stood in line for their chance to go inside and vote.

At the Alameda County Registrars Office Monday the wait at times was more than an hour. More than a quarter million people in this county have already taken advantage of early voting either by mail, or by heading to polling centers early.

One voter commented that Tuesday would be a madhouse.

But it will be an organized madhouse if registrar Dave Macdonald has anything to say about it. His office has been planning for a record-shattering turnout. They've ordered nearly twice as many ballots as usual, added precincts and hired extra poll workers.

"In 2004 we had 745,000 registered voters. Now we're at 804,000. We had a 76 percent turnout in '04. For this election I'm pretty sure it'll be 85 percent, perhaps more," said Macdonald.

On election night no matter how long the line is, if you're in it by 8 p.m. you will be able to vote. Then, a poll worker will go to the back of the line and people who come after that will be turned away.

Voting by mail has also been phenomenal. Just over 50 percent of the ballots the counties sent out have been returned. That represents 21 percent of all registered voters in California.

Thousands of voters statewide aren't taking any chances. They lined up in Santa Clara County and in San Francisco, where there were three separate lines to deal with the onslaught.

Election officials like John Arntz, the San Francisco Director of Elections, say this is good news for people who plan to vote Tuesday.

"There've been so many people coming here and there's been a lot of ballots coming back to us in the mail. I would think that the lines at polling places won't be as long as people fear," said Arntz Monday morning.

Polls open at 7:00 Tuesday morning.

In Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, besides voters, there will be officials from the U.S. Department of Justice monitoring the election to make sure the process is smooth.

At the Obama headquarters on Market Street volunteers are reached out to voters Monday, but not local ones. They called people in states considered still in play, swing states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

The volunteers ABC7 spoke with had not changed anybody's mind towards Obama, but feel they had helped get out the vote.

"When we reach supporters, we remind them that they can help by getting their friends and family to get out and vote too. So we're going to spread that call out to a lot of people after our call," said Obama volunteer Adrian Davis.

At the McCain phone bank on Mission Street, San Francisco McCain campaign director Leo Lecayo has been focusing his volunteers on Nevada and is not so quietly confident.

"Do you think that John McCain would be storming seven states today if he thought this was a lost cause? He knows where we're at. We are on the bridge to victory," he said.

Down at City Hall where thousands of people have already voted, people are making predictions, not about who will win, but about how many people will vote.

"It'll be up there as far as the percentile is concerned. As far as the number of people voting, absolutely I think it will be the highest in history," said Lecayo.

Last minute campaigning regarding Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, was visible and loud Sunday at San Francisco City Hall.

Although, voters told ABC7 they weren't bothered by this kind of activity so close to their line.

"I've already decided. I think people have a right. It's a public space," said voter Mary Wardell.

San Francisco Registrar John Arntz says the group wasn't close enough to the polling booths to be an issue.

"No, the limit is one-hundred feet and they're outside City Hall. So it's no problem," said Arntz regarding the demonstrators.

The line at City Hall was more than one block long all day as people came trying to avoid long lines on Tuesday.

"I work on Tuesday and I think this is a statement of what Tuesday is going to be," said voter Lee McGrath.

Arntz says tens of thousands more voters registered this year in San Francisco County and they're all voting.

"I think this election will be over 400,000 so we're looking at 80 percentiles for a turnout," he said.

78-year old Henry Stevens told ABC7 he left Alabama for San Francisco as a child. He says he marched with Dr. King and can't contain his excitement of being able to vote this election.

"This is history. Like I say a black man is going to be president. I could jump for joy."

The lines were just as long for Alameda County voters.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters expects 85% of registered voters to vote by Tuesday. 85% are expected to vote in Santa Clara County. In San Francisco more than 100,000 people have already cast their vote.


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