Douglas County voters surprised by short lines, little waiting

10:27 PM, Nov 4, 2008   |    comments
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"I brought a snack and a book. I was expecting long lines," she said.

But the voting process in Douglas County didn't meet her expectations.

"I walked right in," she said. "It was great!"

Voters throughout the county echoed Abitz's experience. One even wrote a letter to Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith, thanking him for the problem-free experience.

Restoring voter confidence was Arrowsmith's mission when he took office after the Nov. 7, 2006 election. That day saw voters waiting for up to six hours to cast their ballots.

The county established a Fact Finding Commission to figure out what went wrong during that election and to fix it by 2008.

"Predominately, we found simple capacity (issues)," said Arrowsmith. "When my predecessor (previous Douglas County Clerk Carole Murray) determined how long the average voter would take she based her calculation on five minutes. We had a very long ballot in 2006. We analyzed the average voter was taking 8.3 minutes. So, you can see every person who voted backed the system up by three minutes. And at the end of a 12-hour day, we were in trouble."

Douglas County did not use the 28 voting centers in this election, as it did in 2006. Instead, the county had 42 assigned polling locations. It also added 100 electronic poll booths, raising the number to 400. Voters at every polling place had the option to use paper ballots, too. There were 1,000 paper ballot voting booths in Douglas County this election. There were no paper ballots offered in 2006.

Parker resident Kris Jarosz is grateful that he wasn't a part of the 2006 problems.

"Unbelievable," he said. "I know from talking to co-workers that they had a horrific experience last time. And here (today) it's just so easy."

Douglas County voters did encounter lines when the polls opened at 7 a.m., but Arrowsmith says, once the original rush subsided, most voters had no wait at all.

"There have been zero lines in Douglas County, as far as I know," he said.

Douglas County has an estimated 183,000 registered voters. Of that number, 110,000 requested mail-in ballots and 25,000 voted early. Considering the number of inactive voters in the county, Arrowsmith expected anywhere from 30,000 to 48,000 voters to go to the polls on Tuesday.

Jennifer Ortega voted and brought her 8-year-old daughter with her.

"As Americans, we have the right and privilege (to vote), and a lot of people don't have that," she said.

She was both surprised and grateful that her experience in Douglas County went so smoothly.

"It was really organized," she said. "It was nice."

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