ARLINGTON, Va.—Thirty-eight hundred voters, five machines and three paper ballot stations. That’s how many voters were assigned to Northern Virginia’s central precinct Tuesday and the number of voting booths in the Central Library polling place. By 6 am, this location had the lines to show it.
Within an hour of polls opening this morning, the line of voters stretched out the parking lot, creating a two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hour wait. Lois Wessel and Julia Keyser, Obama for America volunteers who were handing out Democratic mock ballots outside, said some voters left saying they’d come back later, while a few opted for the paper ballot being offered to speed the line along.
Wessel and Keyser tried to issue words of encouragement to the restless voters waiting in line, and by noon an extra poll worker and polling book were provided to expedite the process.
“The lines are just way too long; this is absurd,” said Nicholas Dilenschneider, the lone voter advocate placed by OFA at the polling location. He thought too many voters were assigned to the precinct. “I think this constitutes a form or voter suppression in the 21st century.”
The Romney campaign’s poll watchers, of which there were three on hand, were less fazed despite being glad to see the line die down around noon. Alex Sanders, chief elections officer for the central precinct attributed the longer lines to a lower level of absentee voting in Virginia this year.
Aside from the lines pushing some voters to opt for provisional ballots, several voters were forced to cast provisional ballots thanks to confusion over residency. Justin Greger was one voter who stuck it out in line only to be told his vote might not count.
His residency had changed to Washington D.C. before Oct. 8, so he was no longer considered eligible to vote in Virginia. OFA’s poll rep protested, noting poll workers had allowed a voter in a similar situation to cast a ballot earlier in the morning, but to no avail. Greger filled out a provisional ballot.
Greger wasn’t the only one upset over a snafu with the DMV. “The one thing we’re seeing is the DMV not updating peoples’ information; they didn’t get info to the Election Board in time,” said Doug Poggi, a Romney poll watcher.
“I think what I’ve been noticing is a delay of processing,” said OFA’s Dilenschneider. “The DMV thing is really throwing people off. One person was told to go to Fairfax to vote, and when he got there he was told to go back to Arlington.”
Despite the long lines to start the day and confusion on the part of some, the chief elections officer at the precinct called the DMV issue par for the course.
“Most people only vote in the presidential election,” said Sanders. “So they don’t know there’s a problem until they show up.”