Election Line Forecast: Wear Comfy Shoes

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Expect lines at polling places Tuesday, advises Prince George's County Elections Administrator Alisha L. Alexander.

A record-breaking 497,661 people have registered to vote in the county this year, and Alexander said she is predicting 85 to 90 percent of those will turn out. If she is right, that would mean about 130,000 more votes would be cast this year than in the 2004 presidential election.

Lines began to form this week. At some points Monday, Alexander said, the wait was 1 hour and 25 minutes at the Board of Elections office in Upper Marlboro, where voters had gone to submit absentee ballots.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Alexander said. "The volume of absentee ballots is unprecedented. . . . I think this may be a precursor to Election Day."

She said voters could help speed the process Tuesday by reading up on the nine state and local questions on the ballot and deciding how they plan to vote before arriving at the polls. She also advised going to the polls with a patient spirit. Those who arrive near the 8 p.m. closing time should expect to be in line into the evening, a possibility she said election workers are prepared for.

"My prediction is there will be many polling places where people will be voting well past 8 p.m.," Alexander said.

Terry Speigner, chairman of the Prince George's Democratic Central Committee, said the committee will have volunteers at every polling place. They plan to encourage waiting voters to read ballot questions and prepare their votes, so they can spend as little time as possible in the booth. Democrats account for almost 78 percent of the county's voters.

Speigner said he hopes the waits will be no longer than 90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours on Election Day, but he anticipated that they could be longer.

"I would suggest that people plan for the worst case and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen," Speigner said. "Wear comfortable shoes, bring some water. If you have a portable chair, bring it. And bring your umbrellas: We don't know what the weather will be."

Higher Guidance Is Goal Of Election Eve Vigil

Perhaps, as the presidential campaign comes to a close, a moment of contemplation is in order.

That's what County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) and his wife, Donna, seem to think.

The two are organizing a prayer vigil to be held on the eve of the vote. In an e-mail to friends and supporters, the two write that the event is intended to ask that God's will be done on Election Day.

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