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November 07. 2012 3:03AM

Lines just got longer and longer


As the 7 p.m. cutoff approached, the line of Ward 2 voters stretched outside and across the parking lot at Hillside Middle School Tuesday night in Manchester. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

In Manchester, long lines prompted the city clerk to deputize 20 more registrars. In several towns, voter turnout was on track to hit 80 to 90 percent, exceeding the numbers in the 2008 presidential election, when turnout hit a record 719,000.

Secretary of State William Gardner has projected that turnout will be higher this election than 2008.

Gardner said final numbers would not be available until later in the week, but he said he experienced the long lines firsthand when he went to vote at 6 a.m. in Manchester's Ward 2. "There were already 100 people waiting in line," he said.

In Gardner's view, the lines may have had more to do with the number of people registering to vote, a more time-consuming process than voting. Part of the reason is that there was a purge of voter lists in 2011, and many people had to re-register.

The ballots in many locations were complicated, Gardner added, including in Manchester, where there was an additional ballot for a city election for charter commission and an aldermanic seat. It took more time to feed the ballots into the machine, he said.

"In my years of voting, I've never seen lines so long as I've seen putting two ballots into the optical scanner. Usually you might have two to three people waiting. There were lines snaking around the room," Gardner said.

Gardner noted that when he checked in during the day Tuesday at the polling station in Merrimack, the state's largest, the number of ballots cast was comparable to 2008. In Bow, while there were long lines, the number of votes cast was down from 2008.

Most had IDs

One thing that did not appear to be a significant factor in the lines was the state's new voter identification law, which requires voters to present a photo ID or sign a challenged voter affidavit in order to vote.

"From what we have heard from a few of the towns, the number of voters not having IDs is not as high as some people had thought," Gardner said.

Ward officials in several towns, however, reported that turnout, as well as new registrations, were up from 2008.

In Candia, the town moderator anticipated early Tuesday evening that turnout would hit the 90 percent mark.

"That's phenomenal," said Town Moderator Clark Thyng. "It's gone exceptionally today. We've had a very strong turnout, very smooth, very little objection to the new voter ID requirements, so we're really happy."

Voter turnout in Wolfeboro was headed for the 80 percent mark Tuesday, according to election officials.

In Epping, the number of votes cast was on track to exceed the 3,348 votes recorded in 2008.

In Hampton, two police officers were called to direct traffic into the Marston School, as voters overwhelmed the polls on Tuesday afternoon.

Cardboard box

In the state's largest city, voter lines snaked through school hallways and into parking lots. "It's pretty incredible," Manchester City Clerk Matthew Normand said. "We've had lines all day long at most polling places."

The lines prompted Normand to deputize an additional 20 registrars during the day for a total of 225, 50 more than the number or workers on election day in 2008.

Normand also authorized poll workers to collect ballots in cardboard boxes when voting machines became filled to capacity or jammed. Those ballots would then be fed into the machine when it was back online, as time allowed.

"There was nothing out of ordinary. There have been tabulator issues pretty much in every presidential election," he said.

Ward 8 was one of the polling places where ballots were collected in a cardboard box. Lynn Lavigne, the moderator for Ward 8, at Memorial High School, called the lines at times "horrendous."

New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice said ballots can be stored in boxes as long as the box is locked, the box placed inside the "guardrail," where access is controlled, and the ward moderator can say the ballots have not been tampered with.

Normand, the city clerk, said the boxes were permissible since they were within the guardrail and were right next to the voting machine, where a poll worker could watch over it.

Lavigne questioned why there wasn't more than one voting machine in the polling station.

Patience at the polls

Voters, for the most part, generally took the lines in stride.

"Heavy turnout is good. If you want change, people have got to get out to vote," said

Steve Janosz, who was waiting in the registration line at Memorial High with his wife and kids.

Andrea Faucher, who was waiting in a registration line that coiled through the hallway at Manchester's Beech Street Elementary School, said she was voting for the first time. "This is the first time I've really been paying attention. Having children will do that," she said, alluding to the child at her feet.


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