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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Polling place problems

I went to my polling place, George Washington Elementary School in Kingston, at 9:45 this morning. I waited in line to sign in, signed in, waited in line to vote, and voted.

I was back in my car at 10 a.m.

Fifteen minutes from start to finish – probably the longest it’s ever taken me to vote in Kingston. (It would have been faster if two of the people in front of me hadn’t taken inordinate amounts of time inside the voting booth.)

I bring this up because I’m nothing short of amazed by this morning’s reports of polling place lines winding around the block in states like Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Some people will be waiting up to eight hours to cast their ballots, according to TV news accounts. That means they’ll have to skip an entire day of work to accomplish a task that takes only a few seconds to complete.

Does this strike anyone else as odd – not to mention ridiculous?

I realize the places I cited are so-called “swing states” in which voter turnout always is high when a presidential election appears to be close. But don’t the states’ election officials realize this, too? Aren’t they aware, months in advance, that the number of voting machines and polling place volunteers won’t be sufficient to handle the crowds? And can’t they make adjustments in the weeks leading up to Election Day to mitigate the problem?

I guess the answer to all these questions is “no,” because the same thing keeps happening every four years. And there’s no indication of significant improvements in the near future.

The upside is that most people waiting in the long lines appeared to be in good spirits and were turning the occasion into a festive event – sort of like a tailgate party in a football stadium parking lot. I guess that means they’ve come to expect the long wait and know how to make the best of it.

But it doesn’t excuse the existence of the situation.



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