News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 7, 2014

Waiting in the aisles

Voters face long lines to cast ballots; Vigo turnout 16.6 percent

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County voters, casting ballots in vote centers for the first election, faced long lines in some centers, leaving as many as 75 voters in one center still waiting to cast a ballot after polls closed at 6 p.m.

By law, voters standing in line in any of the 18 new vote centers were allowed to vote after 6 p.m., said Vigo County Clerk David Crockett.

In addition, tabulation of Tuesday’s primary election was delayed as computer thumb drives used for tabulation were slow in being delivered to the Vigo County Courthouse for a central tabulation. Unofficial total results were completed at 8:48 p.m.

All tabulation results in Indiana elections are unofficial until certified by county election boards; Vigo County Election Board meets on May 16. The board must also review any provisional ballots before May 16.

There were 76,586 registered voters in Vigo County, with 12,721 ballots cast for a voter turnout of 16.6 percent.

Crockett said election officials will now work to see how they can smooth out rough edges of the county’s first election using vote centers.

“I think the voter center for the first time out went well,” Crockett said. “We had hoped the tabulation results would have been a little quicker. The problem is we have to get the thumb drives here, but once they got here, it only takes a couple of seconds to calculate.

“I don’t know if we can eliminate the thumb drives, as that is what it take to tabulate the votes. I don’t know if there is some way that they can be done on a laptop [computer] and be sent back from the vote center. This is the first time, out of the box, for this,” Crockett said.

Richard Shagley II, assistant member of the Vigo County Election Board, said a review of the election will allow the board “to move machines around to different centers, now that we will have the data from centers,” Shagley said.

“We will be able to learn from this and modify it for the elections to come,” Shagley said.

However, many centers were left with voters in line, such as Baseler’s Market which had 75 people still standing in line at 6 p.m.  Election officials moved two additional voting machines to the Vigo County Public Library about 3 p.m. in an effort to speed up voting in that site, which was used as an alternative to Baseler’s.

“Hopefully, voters will understand that we will work to ensure that these issues won’t be as severe in elections to come,” Shagley said.

Brittany Smitley said she prefers the new electronic voting machines used in the vote centers.

“I liked it a lot better than the pen-and-paper” ballot, Smitley said. “It was a lot quicker. A lot in my generation are so used to using computers and cell phones,” said the 23-year-old who cast a ballot at the former state police post along U.S. 41 South about 8:45 a.m.

At the Vigo County Public Library, Charles Newell, 59, said he thought casting a ballot “was easier than I thought it would be.” He said he has voted in each election since his 18th birthday.

“I am not computer literate and still have trouble using a cell phone, but they explained it to me well and it went well. It didn’t take any time at all,” Newell said.

That wasn’t the case for Judy Robinson.

“It is pathetic. I went to Baesler’s [Market] first, but the line was too long and then I came here to the public library and there was a line. The whole thing took me an hour and half,” Robinson said. “It’s a mess, I think,” said the 73-year-old voter.

Pam Bertoli was also at the library, picking up books.

“I thought I would kill two birds with one stone, but there is a line here. I will just go to the firehouse at Riley. That is where I had planned to vote anyway. It is close to where I live and it is never busy,” Bertoli said at about 2:20 p.m. on election day.

John Kuykendall, 68, who also voted at the Vigo County Public Library, said he had a brief learning curve to use the new system.

“You just have to get used to it. The hardest part was going back and reviewing your ballot. I voted Republican, so there was a lot of uncontested and no candidate boxes. Yet, I think the [electronic voting] is good,” he said.

Still, Kuykendall said there was a wait to vote and voiced concern that in the general election, voting could “bog down a little bit.”

Baesler’s Market was the most popular voting site of the 18 voting centers with 1,967 ballots cast. The voting line stretched the width of the store. One man looked at the line and walked away. Asked if he would go to another vote center, he simply replied, “Nah.”

Another, who only gave his name as “Bill,” said he will vote Republican, “but I don’t wait in lines. This is not what we were used to at Sycamore Manor. We never had a line,” Bill said.

Elizabeth Pidany said she waited 45 minutes to vote “but it was worth it. I have always voted,” she said.

Esther McCombs said she waited an hour to vote. “It was horrible. If Bob [Baesler] has this next time, they should put out some chairs for old people to sit in. If I didn’t have this [grocery cart to lean on] I would not have made it. I hope it is not to keep old people from voting,” McCombs said.

“I thought everybody voted early, but apparently everyone else here thought others voted early too. To me, [Tuesday] is election day and that is when most of the older people will come out to vote,” she said.

In addition, McCombs said she thought the voting system “was confusing. I had to use my thumb and push really hard. It was not doing what they said it would do when I touched it,” she said.

Because of long lines, poll workers directed voters to Booker T. Washington and the Vigo County Public Library as well as the VFW Post No. 972. At the VFW, there was no line, and voters got through in just a few minutes.

“I went to Baesler’s first, and they told me it was 45 minute wait so I came here,” said Helen Anderson. “This is where I will come in the fall election. I also liked the voting electronic machine. I’ve never missed a voting day, either primary or election, since I was 21,” said the 75-year-old Anderson.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

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