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Local voters turn out at steady pace

Voting got off to a wet start at the City Hall precinct thismorning after the polling place wasn’t open on time. Elsewhere,steady was the word to describe early turnout for today’selection.

Several people voted in the rain after the doors to the chamberof commerce building were not open at 7 a.m. Kenny Goza, chamberpresident, arrived a few minutes later to unlock the doors.

Irene Wallace Hancock came by to vote about the time the doorswere opened.

“My opinion was it appeared to be poorly organized,” Hancocksaid about the situation.

Election officials said supervisors are responsible for makingsure polling places are open. District Three Supervisor Nolan EarlWilliamson, whose district includes the precinct, said a key to theprecinct was not delivered to poll workers Monday night.

“It’s worked in the past, but we just didn’t get the key to themlast night when they picked up the boxes,” Williamson said. “It’sone of them things.”

While dry, many said conditions inside the precinct leftsomething to be desired. Voters cited low lighting and limitedspace concerns.

“This is the worst place because of the lighting,” said voterMary Ann Barker as she left after casting her ballot.

Hancock said the problems were not due to poll workers but acombination of issues such as the weather, space and lighting. Sheindicated, though, that better preparation was needed.

“We’re Americans,” Hancock said. “All predictions were this wasgoing to be a big election.”

By 9 a.m., 117 people had voted at the City Hall precinct.

At the Vocational-Technical Center, the voting place for theHigh School precinct in District One, 52 people had cast ballotsshortly after 8 a.m.

“Turnout’s been good so far,” said poll worker Dorothy Watkins.”It’s been steady this morning.”

Although the forecast was for continued rain during the day,Watkins said she doubted that would have an effect on turnout.

“I think they’ll vote regardless,” she said.

At the Pearlhaven precinct in District Two, poll worker JohnnieAcy reported similar early turnout with 54 people voting.

“So far, we’ve had mostly elderly who have come in,” she said.”The young ones will be last minute.”

At the Northwest Brookhaven precinct in District Four, the thirdtime was the charm for Donald Sterling as he was able to finallycast a ballot after going to two other polling places.

After having voted there in past elections, Sterling said he hadbeen to the City Hall and Halbert Heights precincts earlier. Hementioned earlier election incidents where he and his wife,Valerie, voted in different places.

“My wife and I have never voted in the same place until thiselection,” said Sterling, who lives on Linton Avenue.

District Four Election Commissioner Charles Smith mentionedsimilar problems with a few voters at the Halbert Heights precinct.He said three calls had to be made to the circuit clerk’s office toverify where people were supposed to vote.

“People are confused about redistricting,” said Smith, referringto redrawn lines following the 2000 Census.

New lines were used in last year’s state and local elections.Smith said another part of the problem is confusion between cityward and county precinct places, which are sometimes not thesame.

“Other than that, it’s been a good turnout and things are goingreal good,” Smith said.

Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins was checking into the situationregarding voters voting in the proper precinct. She said her officeis available to people to call if they have a question about theirpolling place.

Turnout was heavy at two of the county’s largest precincts.

“We’ve had a steady line ever since we opened,” said JamesLewis, commenting on the 206 people who had voted by 9 a.m. atHalbert Heights.

A few minutes earlier at Lipsey in District Five, 149 people hadcast ballots.

“I think for the time, that’s running pretty good,” said pollworker Coleman Lea. “They’ll probably start pouring in at lunchtime and in the last hour.”

Lea was skeptical of the bad weather’s influence on turnout.

“I don’t think it’s hurt a thing so far,” Lea said. “But wehaven’t had a downpour. That’s what kills it.”

In Lawrence County, turnout was averaging about a vote a minuteshortly before 8 a.m. at the Topeka precinct.

Poll worker Renee Smith said today’s election was the busiestshe’d ever seen. She expected the pace to continue throughout theday.

“I’m sure that it will,” Smith said. “It usually comes in waves,but I think it will be steady today.”