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In Youngstown, some voters wait long past polls' closing



Published: Wed, November 3, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The wait to vote at the youth academy was one of the longest in the Valley.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Verdell Brown sat in a plastic chair at the edge of the Youngstown Youth Academy's gym floor Tuesday evening, waiting for her chance to vote.

After an hour, Brown had made it only about halfway through the line to one of the three electronic voting machines in the gym. Poll workers handed out bottled water and boxed fried chicken dinners to East Side residents as they waited to vote at the academy, located on Commonwealth Avenue.

Even when the polls closed at 7:30 p.m., the line was still so long that those at the end most likely didn't vote until about 9:30 p.m.

Brown said she didn't mind the wait.

"Ain't nobody taking my vote away," she said. "It took [blacks] this long to get this far, it ain't going to kill us now," to wait, she said.

"It's for our country, it's for our future, our children, everything we're all about," Brown said.

Some got impatient

Others in line as the polls closed, however, weren't as patient.

"This is ridiculous," said Maika Bragdon. "People have better things to do" than wait in line to vote, she said. Voter Kanesha Jackson noted that she had come to the gym to vote straight from work and that she wouldn't be going home until after she cast her ballot.

The wait was 30 minutes or longer at several polling places in the Mahoning Valley on Tuesday, as a record number of voters came out to cast their ballots. Few voting lines were as long as the one at the Youngstown Youth Academy, however.

"We've never had this many voters," said Maryann Wright, the presiding judge for Youngstown Precinct 1-D, which votes at the youth academy. There are 953 registered voters in the precinct.

"We've got a lot of young voters here," as well as voters "we haven't seen in years."

First-time voter Mark Butler noted that many of those in line were friends.

"I see all these people around here, it's like family," Butler said.

Appreciated comforts

Voter Anita Flint added that she appreciated that poll workers were making an effort to keep voters comfortable while they waited.

"It's cool; they're feeding us," said voter Kim Allen. "The chicken was good."

Ellen Croom, however, said she thinks poll workers could have done more to decrease the wait. She said that some voters most likely were confused by the electronic voting machines, and that poll workers should have been standing by each machine to answer any questions.

Several voters also wondered why there were only three voting machines at the gym.

Tom McCabe, deputy director of the board of elections, said that the number of voting machines in each precinct is based on the number of voters in that precinct; precincts with a high number of voters received several machines, while precincts with fewer voters received fewer machines, he said.

Each precinct received an additional machine for this election, McCabe said.

hill@vindy.com




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