Your Election Day stories

We're hearing from readers about long lines in Virginia and voting machine problems in Indiana, but we've also gotten touching reports from North Carolina and Georgia.

By Alex Koppelman

Published November 4, 2008 5:25PM (EST)

I've had stories from readers all across the country pouring in; thanks to all those who've written in so far. If you don't see your story here, it's probably just because I'm saving it for a later post. And if you have an interesting story to share, or photos or video, e-mail me: alex(at) I may edit them for length and/or clarity. Let me know if you want me to use your name or not; if you don't say either way I'll assume I should keep you anonymous.

Let's start this post off with the bad news. We'll get to the good news soon enough, I promise.

From Chris Skees, in Bloomington, Indiana:

This morning, I arrived at 5:45 at Tri-North Middle School for New Bloomington 02 precinct in Bloomington, IN. When I arrived, there were about 25 people already in line, and there were about 40 right at 6:00 when the polls opened. We walked into the auditorium as a group. There were five MicroVote machines setup in front of the stage, and immediately there were problems. The first person who tried to vote said the machine was not lighting up at all. The clerk in charge, a man who looked to be in his late 40s or early 50s, went around pressing buttons on her machine, and then continued to power cycle the machine and remove and replug the cords. He then began to do this to the other machines, and none of them seemed to be working. At this point the line began to grow out of the auditorium. The main clerk continued to play with the cords, and then referred to a booklet. He then got on the phone and started making various phone calls telling them the machines weren't working. There was one machine working at this point, and a total of three people voted between 6:00 and 6:15. At this point various poll monitors were also getting on their cell phones and making calls. One gentleman who introduced himself as vice-chair of the county Democratic party asked if the main clerk was deputized. Another clerk who standing by said, "We are definitely having problems." Eventually, while still on the phone, the main clerk was able to turn on the small boxes beneath the machines that were sitting on the floor that looked to be receiving the data. Once those were lit up, the machines appeared to work properly. The clerks were having to manually reset this light in between every vote, which I don't know is standard procedure. Like I said, I was about 20th in line, and I voted by 6:30.

One man when he arrived at 6:00 said he's been voting there for years and hadn't seen so much activity this early. There was a good mix of young people, and I would say at least half of those I saw in line were under the age of 25.

From Kevin Marlowe, in Tidewater, Virginia:

Alex, it's a cool, rainy day here in the swingiest region of swingy Virginia. People in my office vote in one of a dozen or so counties and cities, each with its own voting equipment and rules. I've noticed an interesting correlation here, mid-day, as people talk about their voting experiences. Most are reporting early-morning waits of 45 minutes to an hour, but some (like me) barely slowed to walking speed to cast a ballot on the way to work. The longest waits seem to be at the polling places that use electronic voting equipment.

One of my co-workers (Chesapeake, VA) described validating his name and address at a table using laptops to access a database, and then being given a card with a magnetic strip to unlock a touch-screen voting machine. He experienced a short delay when an election official noticed that the number of people validated through the laptops didn't match the number of ballots cast. This was corrected, but stopped progress while it was being worked.

Another (Suffolk, VA) described essentially the same system; he attributed delays there to long lines. Of course, the line might have been partially caused by the amount of time the electronic process took, or it could just be heavy turnout. A third (Deep Creek, VA) described an overflow crowd that annoyed a school janitor forced to let them in to get out of the rain. Her voting experience took more than an hour at 6 AM.

My precinct (York County, VA) checks photo IDs against a binder with printed names and addresses of registered voters; once validated, I was given a paper ballot with circles to darken before feeding it into a dishwasher-sized optical scanner machine. The whole process, including validation, took less than five minutes.

And now, the good news.

From Rebecca, in Cary, North Carolina:

I live in Cary, NC and volunteered at a KidsVote booth at a local precinct for several hours this morning. What struck me was that 3 of the other parent volunteers were not American citizens. They did not yet have the right to vote, but the fact that they would one day have the right was important enough to them that they volunteered to help local children participate in our democratic process. One had just come off working a night shift. Another was taking time off work without pay. It made me feel very proud of my country.

From East Point, Georgia, near Atlanta:

Huge turnout -- bigger than I’ve ever seen at our polling place. Lots and lots of young African-Americans. People with their children in tow. Taking photos with cellular telephones and video-cameras to document what everyone agreed was a wonderful sight to see. Great to see.

When I finally made it through the 2-hour-long line and nearly to the voting booth, an older African-American man in front of the line kept letting people go in front of him. When he told me to go ahead, I said, “Don’t you need to vote too?” He told me that he was going to need help and that a woman with whom I guess he’d been waiting had agreed to help him. So he was waiting for her. She happened to be in the booth next to me and so I heard them talking when he went up to vote. It was clear very quickly that he could not read. She helped him to make his choices. I couldn’t help but overhear who was his choice. It was a great thing to see that he was so determined to vote -- most likely for the first time in his life. I think change has already happened to some extent…

Finally, one reader sent in a photo from an Obama rally held yesterday. It was his son's first political event -- he's the blonde kid in the center. Say it with me now: "Awwww..."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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