'A lot of grumbling': Polling place confusion in Quincy - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

'A lot of grumbling': Polling place confusion in Quincy caused by redistricting

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Henry Kendrick, a judge in Quincy's Precinct 10, uses a Palm Pilot to help Judy Taylor find out if she was at the correct polling place on Tuesday afternoon at the Hall of Fame Room on the Quincy University campus. (H-W Photo/David Adam) Henry Kendrick, a judge in Quincy's Precinct 10, uses a Palm Pilot to help Judy Taylor find out if she was at the correct polling place on Tuesday afternoon at the Hall of Fame Room on the Quincy University campus. (H-W Photo/David Adam)

By DOUG WILSON and DAVID ADAM
Herald-Whig Staff Writers

Many Quincy voters who thought they knew where to cast ballots Tuesday found out they were wrong, and one precinct judge said he had heard "a lot of grumbling" about it.

New voter registration cards were mailed out in October 2011, but some people forgot their new polling places.

"The Faith Presbyterian Church at 24th and Monroe was the worst place (for voter confusion), because it's not a polling place any more. We lost it when we redistricted," Adams County Clerk Georgia Volm said.

"After a year and one election (in March 2012), I thought maybe it would not be a problem. It took me by surprise this morning."

Political districts were redrawn in 2011 based on the 2010 Census. As part of redistricting, some precincts had to be redrawn so that multiple ballots would not be required.

"We lost some voting sites because of the push to cut back our expenses," Volm said.

Volm sent out a media alert at 9 a.m. to warn voters to call her office if they showed up at Faith Presbyterian. She said it was not possible to put up a sign telling everybody which polling place they should use, because different precincts were sent to different sites.

She sent an election official to the church with a Palm Pilot that had access to voter rolls. Those seeking information were sent to their new polling sites.

Election judges at the polling places were using Palm Pilots to help voters as soon as they walked into the polling places. Voters gave their birth dates and names to precinct judges, and the judges would then punch the information into the Palm Pilots to determine if they were at the correct place.

"It would be hard to say, but I'd say close to 40 to 50 percent don't know if their precinct is here or not," Henry Kendrick, a judge in Quincy's Precinct 10 who was helping voters at the Hall of Fame Room at Quincy University, said. "Some of them find out they are totally in the wrong building. There's been a lot of grumbling."

Kendrick said he met people on Tuesday who lived within four blocks of Quincy University who were told their polling place was at a location on 36th Street.

Kendrick and two other precinct judges were helping a surge of voters coming in around 5 p.m. after they were finished with work. Voters in Precincts 10, 13, 14 and 16 were voting at QU, but the Precinct 10 table was closest to the entrance, so most people were coming to their table first.

Despite the redistricting confusion, Kendrick said the day had "gone pretty smooth."

"It varies, but we haven't had any really slow spots," he said. "It's not like the primary where you spend a half an hour and nobody shows up."

The Hall of Fame Room had plenty of room and could accommodate 30 or 40 voters at a time, but that wasn't the case at St. Vincent's Home, 1510 N. 10th, where voters in Precincts 3, 4 and 5 went to cast their ballots in the Blessed Catherine Community Center. Only 12 voting booths were available, and at about 5:30 p.m., each booth was filled and another dozen or so voters were waiting.

"It's been this way the majority of the day," precinct judge Carol Howerter said. "But we haven't had any complaining ... at least not to me."

Firefighter Chris Patterson said he went to vote at Melrose Chapel, 36th and Payson Road, early Tuesday morning, but the lines were too long for him to go in and vote quickly. Patterson said he went back around noon, and the lines were still too long. He went back one more time at 4 p.m. and finally cast his vote.

Electronic poll books were used at various sites in Quincy, including Salem Church and Central Baptist Church. Voters have traditionally signed their voter registration sheet in a blue binder that contains the name of every voter in a particular precinct, but poll books help voters find their registration sheet electronically. The sheet is printed out, and the voter signs it. Several voters at those polling places remarked how smoothly the voting process went.

However, the poll books used at the Knights of Columbus weren't as efficient late in the day.

Billy Martin, 31, said he arrived at the K of C to vote at about 5:45 p.m. and was greeted with long lines.

"It's the first time I've ever voted, and I thought it was just normal," he said. "Then I heard some people talking around me, and they were talking about problems with the computers."

Martin said when it was time for him to sign his voter registration sheet, the judge typed the first letter of his given name, William, into the computer.

"And then we sat there," he said. "The computers were so slow that the judge would type in one letter, and then we would wait."

Martin said all three computers at the K of C were experiencing the same problem.

"I counted there were 24 spots where you could vote, but there were only two people voting most of the time," he said. "By the time they would finish voting, only two more people had been registered."

Martin, a small business owner, said it took him an hour and 20 minutes to vote. However, he said he didn't mind.

"It was my first time, and it was worth it," he said. "It's a right and a freedom that we have.

"But I have to admit that I was sitting there thinking, ‘Maybe the early voting or going in the middle of the day would be better next time.'"

—dwilson@whig.com/221-3372

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