Roanoke Voting Precincts See "Bottleneck" Effect - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke Voting Precincts See "Bottleneck" Effect

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Even Roanoke City Councilman Sherman Lea described last night as the Election Commission and the city registrar's office Super Bowl.

Now Lea said he wonders if Roanoke City even practiced.

"The bottleneck was right there at the [check-in] table," Lea said.

Lea waited in line for more than two hours to vote at the Peters Creek precinct, the city's largest voting precinct.

He said he observed the bottleneck at Peters Creek and also at Villa Heights, where some voters didn't cast their ballots until after 9:30 p.m., a full two and a half hours after the polls were supposed to close.

Lea believed the bottleneck came from new computers. The city used 64 of them at its 32 precincts, to take the place of the old paper poll books. Poll books are where election officials check your voting credentials, such as making sure you have an ID, and marking that you cast your ballot.

Lea said using the computers slowed the process at Peters Creek and Villa Heights to a crawl.

Roanoke City Registrar Lavern Grigsby-Shepherd said it wasn't the computers at fault. Grigsby-Shepherd said she allocated resources exactly the way state law mandates it.

Grigsby-Shepherd said state guidelines direct how many voting booths she can put at one precinct, and even restricts her from buying new voting machines unless any are broken.

Roanoke has 135 touch-screen voting machines, Grigsby-Shepherd said.

The city has 64 computers it uses as poll books at its 32 precincts, election commissioner Melvin Williams said.

If it is a state bureaucracy or money problem, 21st District State Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) said he would look into it. Edwards said he saw the long lines for himself at Villa Heights.

"[Voting] is a fundamental right and not something you need to scrimp on," Edwards said.

Others, including Lea, said, money and bureaucracy aside, you have to be on your "A" game during your biggest event. Lea said you have to be prepared.

Lea gave the registrar's office an "F" grade for its effort.

The city registrar's office maintains if you're going to play in the Super Bowl, then you have to have the right helmet.