Voting hiccups can't quiet Election Day excitement




Posted on November 6, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 6 at 6:45 PM

Despite the long lines that welcomed some North Texas voters, participants in Tuesday's election weren't dissuaded from casting their ballots and sharing their visions for the country's political future.

Residents began lining up when the precincts opened at 7 a.m., although others who wait until later in the day will be allowed to vote as long as they’re in line by 7 p.m.

At Travis Middle School, a line of about 150 voters spilled out of its front door and stretched along McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas about an hour after volunteers opened location.

In Fort Worth, at the Southwest Sub-Courthouse in the 6000 block of Granbury Road, a handful of voters were told they had the wrong precinct and were directed to the correct polling place. The small obstacle discouraged few; they were eager to cast a vote for the race at the top of the ballot, which is still very much up for grabs. 

Indeed, the battle for the Oval Office between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had voters outside the polls speaking strongly along partisan lines.

It was the first ballot race all voters News 8 spoke to brought up –– even in Fort Worth, where a contentious race for the District 10 seat in the state Senate between incumbent Wendy Davis (D – Fort Worth) and Republican challenger Mark Shelton also graces the ballot.

“As far as my concern today? Getting the right president in office,” said voter Sylvester Kindale, who said he’s paid attention to the political process since the 50s and knows the important of the nation’s highest position.

“I’m supposed to be at work, but I’m voting. Work can wait.” 

Kindale joined a handful of others at that precinct who were directed to other voting locations. Terry Ducar said she recently moved and may have had her voter registration sent to her previous address. She was nevertheless eager to participate in the democratic process.

“I just think that everyone is really wanting a change,” she said. “The past four years have not been what everyone expected and people are really wanting to see something different happen.” 

Others ran into more difficult issues at the poll.

Dallas resident Johnathan Brownlee learned he was one of potentially hundreds whose voter registration information did not get forwarded to election officials by the state. His name was not on the list at Franklin Middle School in North Dallas. 

“My wife voted no problem, then I found out I was never on the list,” he said. “I recently got a new license at the DMV … and they couldn’t find me anywhere in the voter registration.” 

Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Tippins-Poole said the problem Brownlee ran into originated at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle office. She said it was either a glitch or a clerical error. 

“The state is investigating what happened,” she said.

Brownlee said he called the Texas Secretary of State’s office after a volunteer would not let him into a booth. A clerk told him to fill out a provisional ballot and list crucial identifying information to insure his vote would be counted.

"They said I could fill out a provisional ballot, but there was a very good chance that provisional ballot would not be counted," Brownlee said.

He voted anyway, but provisional ballots need to be verified. It’s a problem election officials across the state found in early voting.

More than 1,000 provisional ballots have been requested in Dallas County and more than 900 in Collin County, many of which may include registered voters who weren’t allowed to cast regular ballots. The exact number affected is unclear.

Brownlee said his concern was that others wouldn’t be as diligent as he was in researching the problem.

“I think this will be a big issue, and I’m not sure this will be completely solved by the end of the day,” he said. “If you have problems, ask the right questions. It’s your right to vote and you should exercise that right.”

But it wasn't the only election problem in the state Tuesday.

In Galveston, polls opened at 7 a.m. But at many locations, poll workers didn't start computer systems early enough to be ready on time. As a result, Galveston County's polling centers will stay open until 8:54 p.m. Tuesday to make up for lost time.

"They should have been tested last night, up until the morning when these polls opened," said one Galveston voter.

In Collin County, things have been running smoothly, according to the elections administrator. There was one minor problem this morning, when the website that directs people where to vote crashed for less than an hour, but it was fixed.

Still, some long lines and brief bouts of miscommunication have not muted the day’s importance for many. In Carrollton, high school seniors Mason Porter and Madeline Autrey knocked out two milestones in one election –– casting a ballot for the first time and volunteering at a polling place. 

“I’m exempt from my government exam if I do this,” Porter, who voted early, joked, “but I also saw it as a good opportunity to see how the whole voting process really works. When I went and voted I was in and out in about five minutes. I didn’t really get to see much, so this way I get to see what all goes on behind the scenes.” 

Autrey, 18, said she sees voting as her “civic duty” and is primarily concerned about health care and education issues. Both teens were volunteering at Arbor Creek Middle School.

Voting “is a privilege not a lot of people have, and I think it’s important to take advantage of that and really make the most of it,” she said. 

In Mansfield, Nicholas Eno echoed that precise sentiment. The 55-year-old is a native of Nigeria and voted for the first time as an American at T.A. Howard Middle School on Tuesday. He was warmly welcomed by his 19-year-old daughter, Nicole, who flew in from College in Missouri as a surprise to vote alongside him. 

“I’m over 50 and voting for the first time in my life,” he said. “It’s really, really amazing not to see tanks on city streets and being forced to vote one way or the other. This nation has its problems, but it’s the greatest nation on earth.” 

Polling precincts will remain open until 7 p.m. Tuesday night. You can find election results after that hour here. Curious where your voting precinct is? Head here for that information