Long lines and lengthy waits were reported at polling places in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as in the District’s eight wards. Some voters, frustrated by the delays, left before casting their ballots.
“We didn’t expect all these people to come out,” said Anthony F. Coachmen, a poll captain at the Columbia Heights Community Center in Ward 1. “It was a surprise.”
The line to vote there snaked around the gymnasium as residents waited to use one of the six machines.
“I’m guessing they have some kind of big kinks they have to work out inside there,” said Brent Elrod, 51, who left without voting. “It seems unfortunate there are so few machines.”
In Maryland, voters reported few problems with machines, but elections officials were stunned by a heavy turnout that appeared to be driven mostly by Democrats. By 5 p.m., 53,463 ballots had been cast at 46 early-voting locations, two-thirds of them from registered Democrats.
“We always thought we would be busy. Just didn’t think we would be this busy,” said Paul Aumayr, voting systems director for the Maryland Board of Elections. “Nowhere is quiet.”
Donna J. Duncan, a director of elections for the state, said it appeared that many residents wanted to vote before the storm. She said she expects turnout to be heavy on Sunday as well; early -oting sites in the state will be open from noon to 6 p.m.
Paul Stenbjorn, a D.C. Board of Elections official, said he, too, believed that some residents decided to vote in advance of the approaching storm.
“This is the equivalent of people going to Safeway and buying the milk and the bread,” Stenbjorn said.
District elections officials said they were particularly surprised by the large turnout in some heavily Democratic areas of the city where early voting had been light in past elections, a sign that Obama’s efforts to get his supporters to vote early may be working.
By 5 p.m. Saturday, at least 2,500 District residents had voted, a sizable number considering that 266,000 ballots were cast during the 2008 election.
In some wards, polling locations were expected to stay open well past the planned 7 p.m. closing so everyone in line could have a chance to vote.
“It looks like Election Day out there, to be quite honest,” said Stenbjorn, adding that officials worked through the day to nearly double the number of voting machines available.
At the King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest shortly after noon, some voters were waited to cast ballots more than two hours after arriving.
“This is just disgusting,” said Gail Ridley, who arrived about 10:30 a.m.