Long lines for D.C. residents as they stream to polls Tuesday


Voters line up (to right of podium at center of photo) to ask questions to a panel of candidates in a debate at Metropolitan Community Church on Thursday, October 25th, 2012. The candidates are running against incumbent Michael A. Brown in at-large race. (Tracy A. Woodward/THE WASHINGTON POST)
November 6, 2012

District voters continued streaming to the polls Tuesday, despite very long lines at some polling places, chilly weather and a shortage of provisional ballots and “I voted” stickers.

Elections director Clifford Tatum acknowledged the long lines at the polls Tuesday afternoon, and said while officials expected “record turnout,” the waits have been exacerbated by an unusually long ballot that includes the three charter amendments.

Voters “seem to be taking quite a bit longer with the ballot than in the past,” he said.

Otherwise, Tatum said, technical issues have been minor, such as paper jams and some touch-screen machines that could not immediately be powered on. By midday, he said, all precincts had operating equipment. A some polls, he added, police had to be called to handle overzealous electioneering.

Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said that he would call on the D.C. Council to investigate the reasons for the long lines at the polls.

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Besides the presidential race, District voters will elect six members of the D.C. Council and a chairman who will finish the term vacated by Kwame R. Brown, who resigned in June. Phil Mendelson (D) is seeking to remain in the latter post against Calvin H. Gurley, also a Democrat.

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) are unopposed. Incumbent Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) is being challenged by Republican Ron Moten, while Barry is facing Jauhar Abraham, an independent.

Voters may choose two of seven at-large candidates. Incumbents Michael A. Brown (I) and Vincent Orange (D) are seeking to remain in office. The challengers are: David Grosso (I), Mary Brooks Beatty (R), Leon J. Swain Jr. (I), Ann C. Wilcox (Statehood Green) and A.J. Cooper (I) .

Voters will also vote up or down on three charter amendments. One would establish for the first time a mechanism for expelling members of the council. The others would make a mayor or council member convicted of a felony while in office ineligible to hold that office.

Also on the ballot are nonpartisan posts, including five State Board of Education seats — an at-large post sought by Mary Lord (Ward 2) and Marvin Tucker (Ward 5), and four ward posts — as well as seats on 37 advisory neighborhood commissions.

At Smothers Elementary in Ward 7, nearly 400 had voted by 11 a.m., leading to the shortages of the “I Voted” stickers and provisional ballot forms.

“We got a little bit of stuff, but we got a lot of people coming,” said precinct captain Doretha Leftwood.

Outside, retiree Ann Hazel said she voted for President Barack Obama and Alexander, saying she did not consider her challenger, Republican Ron Moten. “I’ve been a Democrat for 76 years,” she said.

Linda Winston, a social worker, said she was most excited about reelecting Obama. “Even with [President George W.] Bush, he needed two terms,” she said. “He needed that additional time to go in and accomplish what he needed to accomplish. That’s what I’m seeing right here.”

At 9 a.m., about 450 voters had cast ballots at Shepherd Park Elementary School, one of the largest precincts in the city, with another 50 waiting in line.

“I didn’t expect there would be such a line,” said Lydia Hackert, 22.

In the 2008 general election, nearly 267,000 voted, with about 240,000 of those voting on Election Day. This year, more than 52,000 took advantage of early voting — the first time the option has been offered in a presidential year — and another 15,000 have requested absentee mail ballots.

Still, long lines continued throughout the day.

Hackert moved to the District from Dayton, Ohio to work for USAID as a program assistant in the global health bureau in January. She said it’s interesting to see how knowledgeable District residents are about politics. “It affects people’s careers a lot more than in other places,” she said.

Hackert declined to say who she would vote for.

In Eastern Market, voters were waiting between one and two hours to cast their ballots at Precinct 89 Tuesday. Voters with last names between N and S waited the longest, said Liz Pomper, 36, an Eastern Market resident. Pomper waited about an hour and a half.

“The line just stopped,” she said.

Precinct Captain Millie Ware said she wasn’t originally aware of the problem, and then worked the check-in desk to try to speed it up.

Ware has been a precinct captain since the 1990s, she said.

“This is not a surprise, this is nothing unusual,” she said. “We’ll just wing it and see what happens. That’s all I can do.”

Brian Butters, of Eastern Market, said he will vote for President Obama again — “with some reluctance.”

“He’s certainly better than Romney,” said the retired National Institutes of Health administrator.

Butters, 66, said he supported Obama’s health care program, as well as the auto bailout, but felt the stimulus package was too small.

“He’s not as liberal as I thought he would be in 2008,” Butters said. “He’s not as progressive.”

In city races, Pomper, said she has been disappointed with the D.C. Council. “I wanted to see a change there,” she said.

Pomper, from Stamford, Conn., voted for Grosso and Wilcox for the council’s at-large race. Pomper, who works for an environmental conservation nonprofit organization, said she believes Grosso has the best chance to win the seat.

“It was important to me who he was endorsed by,” she said, noting the D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Sierra Club.

Pomper also wanted to vote for a woman, and chose Wilcox. Although she felt Wilcox did not run a large campaign, Pomper said she liked the candidate’s platform after reading it.

At Shepherd Park Elementary School, even planner Jackie Willis said ethics reform was top in her mind: “I say crooks out; people who are gonna be honest in.”

In the closely contested at-large race, Willis said she chose one incumbent, Brown, but not the other, Orange. Instead, she said she opted for independent Grosso. “I like the fact he’s a native Washingtonian,” she said, adding she was also impressed he served as a top aide to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). “She’s honest, and I think if she allowed him to work for her, that’s good.”

In Foggy Bottom, resident Anice Nelson, 68, said she only voted for one at-large candidate — Orange — after casting her ballot at the West End Neighborhood Library this afternoon.

“I didn’t like the other candidates,” she said, adding that she believes Orange is “pragmatic” and “experienced.”

In the race for congressional delegate, Norton is seeking a 12th term against Bruce Majors (Libertarian) and Natale Lino Stracuzzi (Statehood Green). Also on the ballot are “shadow” U.S. representative and senator posts, which are unpaid ceremonial positions devoted to statehood advocacy.

For the shortest waits, officials advise to visit polling places between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if possible.

Voters who are in line when polls close at 8 p.m. will be allowed to cast ballots regardless.

For more information about voting, including locating your polling place, contact the D.C. Board of Elections at dcboee.us or at (202) 727-2525.

Staff writers Tim Craig, Rachel Karas, Nikita Stewart and Jonathan O’Connell contributed to this report.

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