Some Oklahoma County voters waited in line as long as to three hours Tuesday to cast their votes, and while polls were held open past 7 p.m. for those willing to wait, the crowds may have turned some voters away.
“In a lot of ways, long lines are a good sign because it means people are taking advantage of their right to vote,” state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. “But I always sympathize with people who have to wait in that line.”
The state worked with all 77 counties to ensure a smooth election process, but a multitude of factors contributed to the bottleneck at some voting booths.
Precincts in Oklahoma County range in size from more than 3,500 registered voters to zero. Because precinct lines must be drawn in respect to the district lines for a multitude of districts, they often do not correlate to dividing up the population of voters equally.
“We can't evenly distribute voters precinct by precinct,” said Doug Sanderson, secretary of the Oklahoma County Election Board. “Sometimes you'll have a pocket of voters in an area that has to be a precinct and it only has 100 people, but it cannot be absorbed by another precinct.”
One of the busiest precincts on Election Day was Precinct 153, where almost 1,800 voters cast ballots for president. There are more than 3,500 registered voters in that precinct; the polling place is at 7700 W Hefner Road.
Precinct 188, located in an unpopulated area near State Fair Park, had three voters cast presidential ballots.
Sanderson said for large precincts, the county sends out additional precinct workers and two voting logs so there can be two lines for checking in registered voters and handing out ballots.
Each precinct is required by law to have three workers: a judge, a clerk and an inspector. Judges and clerks are paid $87 for the entire day, while inspectors make $97.
Ziriax said they had plenty of resources this year to provide additional workers where requested and needed.
“The budget was an issue in 2010, but not this year,” Ziriax said. “If they told us they needed extra precinct officials we granted that.”
He said they are always looking for volunteers willing to go through training to be precinct workers.
“There's something else going on here that made the lines longer and slower and that is the new procedure for voter identification,” Sanderson said. “It takes slightly longer for us to process voters because of the voter ID law.”
Sanderson said turnout was lower this presidential election than in 2008, so in theory the lines should have been shorter, but he said they were not.
Poll workers are not only checking for identification, but must make certain it has not expired.
“It's just our new reality with the voter ID law,” Sanderson said.
Ziriax said he thought the process of verifying voter identification added only slightly to the increased wait times.