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Beach Voters

11/06/2012 at 6:32pm

Beach VotersBeach Voters Face Long Waits,
Scanner Breakdowns

After watching the long lines related to early voting last week, voters who gambled that lines would be shorter on Election Day headed to the polls today only to find even longer lines at their local precincts. Many voters waited in the rain to exercise their right to vote in this general election. Others left without voting citing their jobs didn’t allow them a half-day or more to wait in line to vote.

After a realignment of voting precincts, Island voters now have two precincts, #81 at Church of the Ascension and #82 at Chapel by the Sea. Each precinct has 2500-2700 voters and a single optical scanner. Lee County has 125 voting precincts and only about 37 of them have more than one scanner.

Voting in Lee County occurs by filling in a paper ballot using a pen to darken ovals next their selection. Voters then have to feed each ballot page into an optical scanner for tabulation.

Those scanners were the choke point for voters on Tuesday. Voters at Church of the Ascension on Tuesday morning needed over 3 hours to vote. That broke down into 2 hours to get a ballot, 15 minutes to complete it, than another hour to wait your turn at the optical scanner.

Voters at Chapel by the Sea were faced with even longer waits as the scanner at that location malfunctioned. Ballots were then collected in a ballot box, but when that filled, there was a long delay while poll workers determined how to handle ballots. After the scanner was operating again, voters still faced multiple hour waits.

Beach voters were not the only voters in Lee County unhappy with the long lines. The Lee Elections Facebook page was filled with complaints from all over Lee County reporting wait times of over 5 hours in North Fort Myers and 3 hours in Cape Coral. Voters soaked by rain showers were not happy with the long waits, especially when they realized they were caused by the slow scanning process.

The optical scanners would accept only one page at a time and required voters to wait for a message that each page had been tallied before inserting the next page. Voters at Ascension told us that poll workers were not providing any instructions to those standing in line, which led to multiple delays at the scanner, as it had to be reset if the process wasn’t followed exactly.

Voters at the precincts also expressed concern as some voters left the line indicating they had to get to work or were unable to stand in line that long. Ascension poll workers offered chairs to any that needed them and ushered handicapped voters to the front of the line. Chapel workers had their line wrapped around the building under an overhang to keep voters dry.

The Lee County Elections Office indicates that there are 390,346 registered voters in Lee County. Approximately 52,000 voted during early voting with another 100,000 requesting mail ballots. This election’s 39% pre-Election Day voting falls short of the 67% of early or vote-by-mail voters in 2008.

Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature cut early voting days from 14 to 8 this year. The Legislature is also responsible for placing all 11 amendments on the ballot that for Beach voters held 37 decisions on 4 double-sided pages.

Governor Scott declined to extend early voting, when long lines were reported last week, noting that the process was running smoothly.

Missy Layfield