Voters discuss polling place issues

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SMITHS STATION, Ala.- Throughout Election Day, News Three heard from voters who expressed concerns about problems they encountered while voting.

Ron Ray went to his polling place at Smiths Station Junior High School. When he arrived, he saw “Long lines, there was a fairly good line just to go in and pick up your ballot. Then, you had to go outside and go to the end of that line, which was at the far end of the parking lot and wait in line just to be able to come in and cast your ballot.”

Ray said it took him three hours to vote, but he said he was not bothered by the lines. In fact, he was pleased to see the great turnout for an historic election.

Other folks were concerned about the lines, and others talked about how they saw folks filling out ballots in the parking lots.

Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill said his office did not receive any calls of unusual circumstances at the polls, anymore than other elections. He added that he was pleased with the turnouts across the state, adding that more than 2 million people came out to the polls, which is the third largest turnout in state history. He said the turnout enables them to see the methods the office have taken to increase voter participation are working.

Secretary of State Merrill said his office responds to issues in a swift manner on election day. Merrill said that one of the things that stood out this election was the use of electronic poll books. 25 of 67 counties in the state use it. It allows voters to come in with little to no lines, provide their id, provide a signature and receive their ballot. Secretary of State Merrill said the machines reduced wait times by 80%

In addition, Merrill said people are guaranteed secrecy for voting, and locations may be evaluated to see if any changes need to be made. The state does not offer early voting, and Merrill said the state is open to opportunities for voters, but said the office has not seen any data on early voting, which shows that it allows more votes to be cast.

“What we have seen is increased costs for the election because you have to man the ballot location, you have to man the equipment, you have to maintain the equipment, and you have to do that over a prescribed period, which means people have to be compensated for their work,” Secretary of State Merrill said. “In doing that, it increases the costs of the election without any additional apparent benefits other than convenience of the voter.”

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