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Turnout, Unregistered Voters Cited For Long Voter Delays

Three hours after the polls closed in Bexar County Tuesday night, some voters who were in line at election precincts were waiting to cast their ballots.

At 10:30 p.m. Texas Public Radio’s Louisa Jonas filed this live report from San Antonio’s Ridgeway Elementary:

"I’m here with Mackenzie Griesenbeck.  She’s 18 years old.  She’s a first-time voter.  She’s been waiting three hours and there are still six people in line here.”

Griesenbeck was patiently taking it all in stride, saying the frustrating experience would not deter her from voting in future elections.

During the live broadcast she offered an observation about why voting was delayed for hours.

“I went to the room and I saw there were only four voting kiosks.  I’m guessing that’s the reason for the delay because there were so many people there.  They were wrapped around the hallways.”

Bexar County Election Supervisor Jacquelyn Callanen said the delays were unusual, caused in part by a voter turnout that was larger than expected.

The 248,643 Bexar County votes cast this Super Tuesday were more than double the 107,000 ballots cast in the 2012 presidential primary, and close to the record turnout of 275,016 ballots cast in the 2008 primary when Barack Obama ran for the first time.

Callanen said voters were feeling passionate and engaged.  Unfortunately, a larger than usual number didn’t have valid voter registrations.  When they showed up at the polls election judges had to search for registrations that didn’t exist and explain the rules.  And that took time.

“The election officials try their best to make sure those people get a chance to vote.  They literally stop and call our office if they can’t find them, if it doesn’t pop up in the poll book right away.  You know those back and forth discussions with elections officials, all of that takes time.”

Callanen said the long wait to vote was not a result of technical glitches, just a bigger than expected turnout.  After years of voter apathy she said it’s a problem with a silver lining. 

She did apologize to voters for the long delays and she says  election officials will be meeting to avoid future delays. Callanen says one option to speed up voting is increasing the number of election officials.