LEE COUNTY, Ala.- Robert Garris, the elections manager for Lee County said voting county-wide went fairly smoothly, and that they did not see anything unusual or unexpected at most of the polling places.
Garris said they saw a large turnout before and just as the polls opened.
“That established a pattern for the rest of the day of large line, we can funnel people through, people can get through the line as rapidly as we can, but since we have a large turnout already, since we have a large line already established, it’s kind of hard to catch it up,” Garris said.
Garris said the turnout in Lee County was 57%, but they were equipped and prepared for an even larger turnout. Garris said due to the scale of the elections, the lines were to be expected.
“We had the largest turnout in the history of the state,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said “You should expect delays, but we want to do everything we can to improve the efficiencies in the process so that people’s wait time is reduced.”
Garris said they understand the frustrations, and the office works hard to make sure the precincts run smoothly and appreciate the patience of the voters. He adds that all the polls are well-equipped and are staffed with highly trained workers who have worked elections before and are familiar with their precinct.
There are 23 precincts in the county, and there are 40 voting machines to go around. The larger precincts get two, and smaller precincts get one. In addition to the voting machine, there are 26 voter assist machines for those with impairments.
Garris said they provide privacy screens and secrecy envelopes to each precinct, but if voters see there are no spaces left to vote, then it is their choice to vote in public.
“We are aware of any problems that came up on election day, and we are going to work with the officials at the precinct, the probate judge and we are going to come up with a plan for the future to ensure that any problems that did come up are either mitigated, reduced or don’t happen at all,” Garris said.
Secretary of State John Merrill said the lines across the state were significant, but they were excited about the electronic poll books that were used in 25 of the 67 counties in the state. Merrill said these machines reduced wait times by no less than 60% and no more than 80%. He said in Jackson County, the average voter spent 27 seconds checking in. In order for a county to use the poll books, they need to indicate their desire to use one, but there are costs associated with it, but they want to make sure it’s an affordable opportunity for every county and work with them to make sure they have the opportunity to take advantage of it.