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Early Voting Gets Rave Reviews

James Wright | 10/30/2012, 10:36 p.m.

Impending Storm Draws Crowds to the Polls

Thousands of residents who live in the District and Maryland cast their ballots days before Nov. 6 - the thought of lengthy lines at voting centers on Election Day and the threat and possible aftermath of Hurricane Sandy hastened their arrival at polls throughout the region.

Early voting, which allows residents in the District and Maryland the opportunity to cast their ballot for the Nov. 6 elections, has experienced problems since the District opened up seven voting sites throughout the city. Prince George's County opened five sites. Paul Stenbjorn, an elections official in the District, said that he and his staff were surprised by the turnout on Saturday, Oct. 27.

"We did not anticipate the level of turnout that we had," Stenbjorn said. "We did not anticipate the enthusiasm for the presidential election. We also underestimated that the number of people, on their Saturday errands, would choose to vote as a part of their schedule."

The D.C. Board of Elections set up the first early voting station at the Old Council Chambers in Northwest on Monday, Oct. 22 and seven other voting centers opened on Saturday in each of the city's wards. In Prince George's County, early voting started on Saturday, Oct. 27 at five stations.

Hurricane Sandy, it's believed, played a pivotal role in people voting early on Oct. 27 and in the decisions by elections officials in the District and Prince George's County to postpone early voting activities on Monday, Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Albrette "Gigi" Ransom sent out an email to D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie [D-Ward 5], city officials, and bloggers about problems at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast on Saturday.

"There have been long lines, probably more so than what would normally be expected for the first Saturday of early voting due to the pending storm [Hurricane Sandy] that could affect the flow of electricity next week that could impact voting," Ransom said. "[It] Seems voters have been waiting for hours. Seems voters are upset about the way the long lines are being handled."

Ransom, 50, said that long lines had formed inside the recreation center and outside of the building. She also said that some people waited three hours to vote and that the problems were far worse in Ward 8 at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.

"The problems in early voting were all over the listservs in Ward 5," Ransom said. "Everybody was talking about it."

Prince George's County also had its fair share of long lines.

Belinda Queen, a political activist who lives near Capitol Heights, said that when she took her daughter to tumbling lessons at the Wayne Curry Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Md., she was shocked to see so many people in line to vote.

"The line was all the way in the parking lot," said Queen, 48. "I really could not believe it. Durand Ford [legislative aide to Maryland Sen. Joanne Benson] was making plans to give out donuts to people who were standing in line."