Voting Precinct Debut Hits Snags

Voting Precinct Debut Hits Snags

Voting became a mission for Greenspring resident George Wheeler, a former volunteer chaplain for the police and fire departments, who now walks with a cane. Tuesday was the first election that the Greenspring Retirement Community participated in as a separate precinct. Organizers didn't anticipate the number of voters that came out to vote.

With the line winding out the door, it took Wheeler 90 minutes to vote.

"That was terrible, but I got it done," he said.

Others weren’t so patient. Robenhorst Forrest got his blue voting entry card from the registration table but didn’t like the looks of the line either.

"I’m not going to vote either, stand in that long line with only two machines," he said.

John Shannon was more optimistic.

"Waiting in line isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’m going to come back around 1 p.m." he said.

Greenspring’s debut as its own voting precinct wasn’t the only factor at work, creating a line of voters at its polling place. The debut in Fairfax County of new computer voting machines, which resembled laptop computers, added to it. The warm weather also helped to bring in voters. The polls opened at 6 a.m. as required in the county, but most of the Greenspring residents had breakfast first and then headed to the polls, so a lot of people arrived around 9:15 a.m., according to poll chief Abe Kramer. Around 11 a.m., he tried to get more voting machines.

"I’ve called for more machines," he said. "It’s very convenient now. I would expect a big turnout. it’s so convenient."

Greenspring Gardens is in Lee District, and Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D) was on hand to help out.

"Machines are on the way," he said, after a call to Maggie Luca at the election office.

LAST ELECTION, the residents of Greenspring voted at Garfield Elementary School, in the rain, spurring the creation of the new precinct. Greenspring has about 1,500 residents. Some liked the situation at Garfield better.

"It worked better, you could get away from the campus," Forrest said.

Kauffman remembered the complaints then.

"I know Garfield had a steady stream of seniors," he said. "They couldn’t find a place to park."

Nancy Birch thought the new precinct was better.

"We had to wait at the elementary school for an hour last time," Birch said.

Chairman candidate Gerry Connolly (D) showed up at Greenspring as well. It was the seventh stop for the day for him, but he wasn’t happy when he found out his potential constituents had to wait.

"The problem here is the high turnout precinct. It’s a major glitch," he said.

"Any glitch in a tight election is major," Kauffman said.

Another voting machine arrived at Greenspring around 1 p.m., and then two more, for a total of five by 2:30 p.m., resolving the situation by late afternoon. By then, most had voted anyway.

For Lee High School seniors Siobhan Sullivan and Kim Eley, the hectic day may have a good ending. They were "poll volunteers," and ran around with the crowd, helping the seniors decipher the machines, getting coffee and helping out the residents with canes and walkers. The girls discovered they both lived in the same neighborhood.

"That was kind of weird. We both live in the same neighborhood and both live on the same street," Siobhan said.

"We have the same teacher," Kim added.

Greenspring spokesperson Pam McKinley looked on the good side of the voting situation.

"We’re learning as we go along. The good part is we had such a good turnout," she said.