The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Voters at two precincts in Lee Hill District waiting hours to vote
Voters at both the Summit Precinct and the Lee Hill precinct have been waiting hours today to cast their votes.
Both polling places in Spotsylvania County ran into problems this morning as a result of having two congressional districts in each of those locations. Voters there are part of the 1st and 7th congressional districts.
Redistricting created a hassle for voters but the problem at both locations was one of “human error,” the election chiefs at each spot said this morning. In both cases, the person who was setting up the electronic voting machines did them for just one district.
Unfortunately, the district chosen in each case was the one with the fewest – or possibly no – registered voters. At Lee Hill Elementary, the volunteer set up the machines for the 1st District but that area has mostly 7th District voters.
At Summit Precinct, located inside the Lee Hill Community Center, the machines were set up for the 7th District but election official Paul Jenkins said he doesn’t know if that precinct has any voters registered for that district. He said the only part of his area that may fall into the 7th District may be a commercial section.
At 11 a.m., some people who had left Lee Hill Elementary shortly after 7 a.m. because of the voting machine problem, had returned to cast their votes.
Percy Mitchell, his wife Vivian, and their daughter, Chastity Taylor, had all arrived about 6 a.m. to cast their votes before the two women went to work. They waited an hour outside in the cold and had just reached the gym when they learned of the problem with the machines. They were told it could take 1 1/2 hours to have the problem fixed so they left.
Vivian Mitchell headed to work locally and hopes to return before polls close at 7 p.m., her husband said. But he doesn’t know if his daughter will be able to vote at all now since she works in Tyson’s Corner and may not make it home in time.
He took off the day to be able to vote so he came about about 11:15 a.m. to try again.
“Today, I set aside to come and do this,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t as frustrated as some other people.”
One of those other people was Susan Franklin. She arrived at Lee Hill Elementary at 6:15 a.m. so she could vote before work. She left an hour later when she heard about the problem.
She was thankful to have an understanding boss who let her take an early lunch break to come back to try again.
But neither Mitchell nor Franklin were hopeful of quickly reaching the voting machines.
Hundreds of people stood in line outside Lee Hill Elementary and more awaited inside.
At 11:25 a.m., 50 people were inside the school gym in a second line waiting to cast their votes on the machines for the 7th District race. Just one person was in line for the 1st District.
By then, the precinct was operating two machines for the 1st District and three for the 7th District.
Voting officials were giving voters the option of using paper ballots to help speed them along and many were taking advantage of that option.
Robert Bruton Jr. emerged from voting about 11 a.m. after waiting two hours to exercise the privilege.
“I’m usually in and out,” he said of his previous voting experiences at that precinct.
Bruton, like most voters at two precincts, said the economy was his primary issue in this presidential contest.
By 11 a.m. cars were packed in every available space at both of those precincts and had spilled out onto the shoulders of nearby roadways and into subdivisions and nearby businesses.
Jenkins predicted voters could get through the line at Summit Point quickly if they came after 3 p.m.