Lexington County Warns Voters, Policymakers: Long Ballots = Long Waits

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[Image courtesy of virtualtourist]

Lexington County, SC is taking the extraordinary step of warning voters now about potential long lines at the polls in November. Newspaper The State has more:

Significant waits are likely at Lexington County polling places Nov. 4, a result of the lengthy outline of a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax package on the ballot, county election commission chairman Eugene Wilbur warned Thursday …

It probably will take the typical voter 10 minutes – double the usual time – to wade through what could be as many as 20 pages of candidates and proposals,Wilbur said.

The tax plan alone promises to double the number of pages on the ballot.

“The lines will be long” as many voters struggle to digest the tax plan, Wilbur predicted.

The county’s concerns indicate that they were paying attention to the 2012 election, when lengthy ballots in South Florida created long lines there on Election Day. It also appears that the county election office understands that the problem can’t necessarily be solved by adding resources at the polls:

“There is no way we can shorten it,” Council Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat said of the tax plan outline. “We had no choice.”

He scolded election officials for a sky-is-falling view, saying extra help will be assigned to assure polls operate smoothly.

“We will be there to help,” he said.

But extra personnel won’t speed balloting, Wilbur said.

Frustration at the wait is likely to explode with angry complaints, while other voters become impatient and leave, he said.

Passing out summaries beforehand to waiting voters traditionally is fruitless, he said.

About 160,000 voters in the county cast ballots on about 650 machines at 96 locations. About 20 precincts exceed or are near the 2,200-maximum preferred by county election officials.

This combination of long ballots and crowded polling places – in a statewide election year – feels like the traditional recipe for long lines at the polls. It will be interesting to see if the election officials’ concerns are addressed in advance- or if they become an “I told you so” to hold off complaints after the fact about long waits in November.

Stay tuned!

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