November 4, 2008

Election Updates

I'm turning this post into a reservoir for election-related news throughout the day. First, please note our front-page widget, which will keep track of vote tallies around the country, and county-by-county in Wisconsin. It will go live at 7 p.m. our time.

So far, polls appear to be running smoothly. A counting machine temporarily broke down at Tyler-Domer Community Center, but was fixed with minimal interruption.

At Festival Hall, a handful of volunteers from the Obama campaign were prevented from helping register or direct voters after a McCain supporter protested their presence at the polls. One of the election chiefs had no problem with the volunteers, who were not wearing Obama pins or clothing, but two others did.

Funnily, the volunteers were allowed to help when the lines got long this morning, but were sent away when things were more under control.

The volunteers were sent to the polls by the Obama campaign to help keep the lines moving during peak times. The thinking is if the lines move faster people won't get discouraged from voting by long wait times.

Stephen Bull Fine Arts polling site

Kitty Clark, front left, Ralph Henkes, front right, and Carol and Leroy Williams, back row, were the first voters at Stephen Bull Fine Arts Elementary School on Tuesday.

Hard to say who the first voter in Racine was on Tuesday, but Ralph Henkes had to be close.

A Racine alderman in the 1970s, Henkes showed up at Stephen Bull Fine Arts Elementary at 5 a.m. to cast his ballot. No one else was there at the time - not even poll workers - so he went home and came back at 5:45 a.m.

"I've never been first in my life and figured it was time," said Henkes, who had offered to allow Kitty Clark to step in front of him in line, even though she showed up at 6:10 a.m.

"He tried to let me be first," Clark said.

Carol and Leroy Williams were just behind. They showed up at 6:15 a.m., largely to avoid the long lines everyone is anticipating today.

"The one who gets the most votes is going to win," predicted Henkes, noting that in U.S. elections that's not always the case.

"I hope Florida gets through it this year," he said, referring to the controversial 2000 election that saw President George W. Bush elected by a handful of votes after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a full recount.
Like most poll workers, Dorothy Krause, right, and Diane Smith, middle, will work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Poll workers at Stephen Bull started arriving around 5:30 a.m. Most of them will work all day for $100 and pizza for lunch. Diane Smith, who is working her third presidential election, said she didn't mind.

"I love seeing everyone come out," she said.

Smith will work today alongside Dorothy Krause and Lillie Price, who is the chief election inspector for District 2, Ward 4. They'll be at the school until at least 10 p.m. tonight.
Attorney Chester Slaughter

Sitting behind them, six feet away, was Attorney Chester Slaughter from Chicago. He's an election observer from Obama Vote Protect, an organization that placed 1,200 attorneys at Wisconsin polling sites to monitor voting activities.

"Wisconsin's voting laws are the most liberal in the nation," said Slaughter, who is a general practice attorney. "Most people don't realize, and that can lead to confusion."

Several other election observers sat behind the poll workers monitoring voters as the polls opened at 7 a.m. with the cry, "Hear ye, hear ye, the polls are now open."

Line outside of Stephen Bull

One woman ran to the polling table to vote with her husband. The line that had been inside the school's gym spilled out the door into the parking lot. Beautiful weather today should make waiting outside a little easier. Temperatures were in the mid-50s at 7 a.m.

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