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Voters say election will be worth the wait (in line)

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Monday, Nov. 3, 2008

Patience, not politicking, could determine whether Barack Obama or John McCain becomes the next president.

More than 956,000 people are registered to vote in Allegheny County -- more than ever before -- and 75 percent are expected to cast ballots tomorrow.

"There will be lines," said Kevin Evanto, spokesman for Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. "But we want people to be patient."

Many voters said they will be.

"I'll wait in line for as long as it takes," said Shannon Lee, 24, of Oakland.

Her friend, Liz Rutherford, 26, of the South Side agreed. "This election is so important that I think anyone who's been paying attention will do whatever it takes to have their vote counted," she said.

The county already warned voters that lines likely will be longest between 7 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 8 p.m. and urged them to vote during off-peak hours.

Countywide, more people could vote in this presidential election than any since 1960. That year, almost 88 percent of the 866,000 registered voters in the county turned out for the election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, said Mark Wolosik, county elections division manager.

Contractor Geoffrey Davis, 61, of East Liberty already told his boss he might be late for work.

"I'm lucky," Davis said. "A lot of people don't have that flexibility. In some communities, people are gonna wait a long time, and they're gonna be upset."

State law limits voters to three minutes at the voting machine, but the law is rarely enforced, Evanto said.

"There's a short ballot this year, so once people get to the machines, the voting will go quickly," he said.

Polls close at 8 p.m., but Evanto said anyone already in line at that time will have the opportunity to vote.

Anyone with problems voting can contact officials with the county elections division or other organizations that'll have representatives at most sites.

Among the groups are Election Protection, a national nonpartisan coalition whose goal is to ensure everyone eligible to vote can; Common Cause, a nonprofit promoting open government; and Black Political Empowerment Project, a local voting advocate association.

"We do not want anybody leaving the polling place for any reason without voting, including the length of the line," said Tim Stevens, empowerment project director. "We don't want to have this historic election abated by impatience."

An extra judge has been assigned at Common Pleas court to hear election-related cases, and the county hired 160 extra poll workers, Evanto said. At least one official who is trained to handle minor mechanical problems with the electronic voting machines will be at each polling place, Evanto said.

Statewide, more than 50,000 polling place workers, state officials, judges and election observers will be working to field problems from complaints of voter intimidation to malfunctioning voting machines.

Additional Information:

Polling by the numbers

Polling by the numbers

All numbers are for Allegheny County unless noted.

1,321: polling places

404 : polling places in Pittsburgh

4,500: approximate number of election machines

956,114 : number of registered voters

866,000 : approximate number of registered voters in 1960

62,000 : approximate number of new registered voters since last November

412-350-4500 : Phone number for Allegheny County Elections Division

86 6-687-8683: Phone number for Election Protection

Additional Information:

Hurry up and wait

About 75 percent of registered voters in Allegheny County -- 717,085 people -- are expected to vote tomorrow, according to Mark Wolosik, Allegheny County election division manager. That's 159 people per machine.

Polls are open 13 hours. That means there could be a steady stream of 14 people per machine per hour, giving each voter about 4 minutes to cast their ballots.




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