November 4th, 2008
04:52 PM ET
6 years ago

Wait times reach 4 to 6 hours in St. Louis area

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 A long line of voters wait patiently outside their polling place to cast their ballots in St. Louis.
A long line of voters wait patiently outside their polling place to cast their ballots in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) - Long lines at polling stations across the city are no surprise, said officials at the St. Louis County Board of Elections. Callers into the CNN Voting Hotline reported waits of 4 to 6 hours in the northern suburbs of Jennings and Velda City.

The county's board of elections assistant director Dick Bauer said a lengthy ballot and what he expects to be a record turnout have slowed the process. Voters can make as many as 37 selections on the ballot today, and 10 of them are issue choices, said Bauer.

Voters in line at two polling locations in the suburb of Jennings have been experiencing waits of 4 hours or more, according to U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay. The congressman said both Jennings City Hall and Fairview Elementary were understaffed to handle the crowds.

"As we expected, the St. Louis County Board of Elections authority was ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the mass of humanity that showed up to exercise their constitutional right to vote today," said Clay. He said two judges were in place at Fairview Elementary where upwards of 400 people were waiting in line to vote.

Judge Joseph Goeke, director of the Board of Elections, said Clay's statement was incorrect, and that Fairview Elementary had 12 judges all day. He said the county was planning to add another two judges this afternoon. In response to Clay's accusations that polls were ill-equipped and understaffed, Goeke said his plans for today's elections exceeded requirements.

"We're required to have one voting device for every 124 people, and I have one for every 108 or 109," said Goeke. Goeke also said voters in St Louis County have 25% more equipment than he has ever deployed in an election.

St. Louis County has touchscreen and optical scan equipment. Goeke said that "outside influences" are trying to dissuade voters from using touchscreen machines and that some of them go idle at polling stations.

"It's a shame certain advocates are slowing down the process by telling people to take paper ballots", said Goeke, "we have more than enough equipment available."


Filed under: Missouri • Voter Problems
soundoff (191 Responses)
  1. tiff

    I would love an answer to niky's question.

    November 4, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  2. Moxie

    I don't know how it is in St. Louis, but in Virginia if you are in line when the polls close you are entitled to vote - no matter how long it takes.

    November 4, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. Marc M

    If MO goes to Obama it's kind of ironic considering how much of MO and St Louis rely on Clean Coal technology.

    All of these jobs being created by the manufacture of the new plant that was built atop the coal mine are going to go the wayside when Obama destroys our energy capabilities.

    November 4, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  4. Chris from St. Louis

    My wife and I voted in the morning. It took us about 3 hours ... we were there about 30 min after the polls opened. There were 380 voters ahead of us. When we left the place, there were probably about 350 people in line.

    Even though it was a long wait, the experience was very pleasant ... People were upbeat and talkative. Based on the conversation I had, I would say it was 70:30 in favor of Obama

    November 4, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. allen saylor

    obama will lead america strait to hell vote mccain

    November 4, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. DJ

    I grew up in STL. Jennings and Velda are overwhelmingly black neighborhoods that have long been 'forgotten' areas of the county even though they pack far greater population per square mile than newer, whiter burbs. There is not excuse for these polling places to be understaffed–the crowds were absolutely predictable. The county has once again left the north side out in the the cold and I'm sure NO one is really surprised.

    November 4, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Dani-Indianapolis

    They have to let them vote. When the polls close they will cut the line off. Most likely someone working at the polls with have to stand at the end of the line. And the doors will close once everyone has voted.

    November 4, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    Niky, anyone in line before the posted close time gets in to vote.

    My concern, and this is happening all over the country apparently, is that there are many places understaffed for the voters.

    Did NO ONE see the historical turnout during the early voting in North Carolina, Texas, Virginia? I think more than half of ALL registerd voters in Colorado had participated via early voting. So, there's no excuse not to have extra people available for the turnout.

    I'm disappointed that people are having to wait more than two hours to vote. My prayer is that they do wait to excercise their right (responsibility) to vote.

    I'm reminded of those who weren't allowed to vote due to their skin color or their gender. And, there was also the dreaded poll tax for those people who weren't "wealthy enough" to vote.

    I trust that the people who are in line, or who will go, will remember ALL the people who came before them, who were incorrectly jailed, or even killed, because they wanted to perform their civic duty and vote.

    November 4, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Simmy

    I hope we get it right one day soon, so that we can run our voter precincts as professionally as Sen Obama ran his campaign!

    November 4, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. G. Robinson

    Anyone in line at closing time will get to vote. The polls will close after all those in line have voted.

    BARACK YOUR VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 4, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Melissa

    Niky – I am not sure if it varies state by state but I know in some places – if you are in line you get to vote. Even if it is after polls close. So lets say polls close at 7, if you are standing in line at 6:45 and there is still a 2 hour wait you still get to v ote – the line closes at 7, the machines don't just shut down.

    But like I said I don't know if that is state by state or every place

    November 4, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. Stephen

    I believe that happened in a couple of places in 2004... as I recall, they were all still able to vote and it just took longer for news mediums such as CNN to get the results (because it took longer to report them). But I never heard of people being cut off in line or anything like that.

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Joe the Drummer

    If people are in line and the polls close, they don't get to vote. And then they'll start crying about voter suppression...

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Amy

    Niky,
    They are still allowed to as long as they were in line at the time the poll closed.

    In regard to Goeke's comment about people not wanting to use touch screens - I don't either. I'm glad my state (MN) uses optical scan ballots!

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. Mark

    They can vote. You have to be in line before the polls close.

    I havent heard the term line-up since Kids in the Hall went off the air. Are you from Canada Niky?

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Molly

    I'm pretty sure they have to let everyone vote – so the polls stay open until everyone who was in line waiting gets their turn. But I don't think they allow new people in line after the polls have closed.

    If that makes sense.

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. Greg in MN

    Not sure about MO...but up here if you are in line before the poll closes, you HAVE TO BE allowed to vote.

    Stick it out Obama fans in St. Louis! We need every vote we can get!

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. Ashley

    I peed my pants in line in Newport News, VA – I was mortified, but when I marked my ballot for Obama, it made it all worth it!

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  19. Jared

    If your in line at the time the polls close, you will get to vote.

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  20. Lily

    According the information left at my door – as long as you are at a polling place before the polls close, you will be allowed to vote.

    November 4, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. D

    Clay does have a tendency to exagerate in these types of situations. I vote in a poor, 70% minority inner city area. Wait time was 30 minutes and everyone was proud to do it. Here at work, the longest wait I've heard is 45 minutes. Trust on the media to headline the .001%.

    November 4, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Paul H

    Maybe, they should have more paper ballots? Maybe they shouldn't blame "outside advocates" for their failings.

    November 4, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. Marylou South Carolina

    I guess if the voters felt that they could trust the polling places they woould be less concerned about making sure there was a paper trail for their vote.

    November 4, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. Rob

    Anyone in line at 7pm gets to vote. This is typical in heavily Democratic STL city. No problems at all in the republican county.

    November 4, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  25. Matthew

    They vote.

    November 4, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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