Heavy turnout, few problems at local polls

February 5, 2008 1:08:28 PM PST
There have been a few hiccups, but officials haven't reported any major problems at local polling places. However, officials warn the crush of voters could delay the count till at least tomorrow.

Poll workers at a precinct in Oakland on International Boulevard have had a steady crowd of voters all day. But nothing out of the ordinary, that's because of the record turnout that could come with the mail-in ballots.

Precincts have extra volunteers to handle any large crowds. They were finding some bumps along the way. County registrars are depending on thousands of new volunteers to pull off the primary election. Any time you throw a new person in on the job -- little problems are bound to pop up.

"This morning we just had a little trouble getting the machine started up. We couldn't locate the keys, but fortunately we were able to do that within a few minutes and we didn't have to have anybody wait too long," said Shirley Foster, election inspector.

The possibility of not finding that key definitely made Shirley Foster nervous. She is the volunteer in charge of a precinct in Richmond and she was very relieved when they found the key inside the machine.

"I think it's an awesome responsibility. This is my first time so I'm learning -- it's a learning experience," said Shirley Foster.

In Contra Costa County, four independent voters have complained that poll workers mistakenly told them they couldn't have Democratic ballots. At least two of those voters ended up casting non-partisan ballots -- meaning they didn't get to vote in the presidential race. The registrar said he has sent employees to those precincts to retrain the volunteers and to make sure they know that Independents can have a Democratic ballot.

"It was a little hard to find where we were. They actually put the wrong information down," said Elizabeth Detwiler, voter.

In Oakland, Elizabeth Detwiler said her voter guide printed the wrong cross street for her precinct. Even so finding the voting center wasn't near as tough as deciding on who to vote for today.

"I go back and fourth and what I'm choosing -- so it's such a hard one," said Elizabeth Detwiler, voter.

Many of the voters are happy to have such a tough choice before them, and that is why they think there will be a large turnout today.

"Yeah it's a lot going on, the first woman, the first black male - so I'm here," said Eric Thompson, voter.

This morning was a good dress rehearsal for the crush of voters expected later. One registrar said that typically only one-third of voters turn out before 7:00 am and 4:00 pm. Between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm -- two-thirds of the votes come in and they want to prepare us, because of this huge turnout they are expecting, they probably won't have final results until at least tomorrow.