With just six hours left until the polls close at 7 p.m., volunteers and poll workers were huddled under the porch roof at the Anniston City Meeting Center to avoid the rain, until a car pulled up. Then, they headed to the parking lot, offered the shelter of an umbrella, along with campaign literature or marked ballots.
But while the campaign workers had shown up in force, voters were taking their time coming to the polls. At Golden Springs’ Hodges Community Center, 530 of the 2,760-or-so people registered to vote there had cast ballots by midday. At the Anniston City Meeting Center, 188 of 1,397 registered voters had cast ballots.
Mae Sendaba, a Ward 3 resident heading in to vote at the meeting center, said she found it disappointing.
“It’s sad,” Sendaba said. “A lot of people I run into don’t want to vote. They’ve given up hope on somebody making a difference.”
Sendaba, though, was taking the opportunity to cast her vote and express her opinion, she said.
Although poll workers at the South Highland Community Center declined to talk to a reporter, Ronnell Snodgress had been at the center since 7 a.m., taking people to the polls and home again as they call and ask him. Snodgress said he wasn’t working for any candidate, that he’s just concerned about voter turnout in his ward and working to bring it up.
“I’ve got kids and grandkids that live in this ward,” Snodgress said.
In Golden Springs at the Hodges Community Center, poll workers were surprised by the low turnout.
“It’s not as heavy as I expected it to be,” said Martha Grizzard, who has been manning the polls in Anniston for nine years.
She thought the number of candidates would bring more people out to vote. A fellow pollworker at the table, Gillian Bond, said she thought rain – pushing inland from Hurricane Isaac – was keeping voters away.
The workers that the changes in the city’s ward lines have also confused some voters. The women said they had sent some voters whose polling place had changed to other locations. There’s also been some confusion for voters who received multiple cards listing more than one polling place, they said.
“One lady came in, she’d received three cards,” Bond said.
The City Meeting Center and the South Highland Center also had some problems with their equipment early in the day. The problems were fixed quickly, the workers said.
A ballot also jammed a voting machine at the Moore Avenue Church of Christ, leaving the machine unable to load ballots automatically as designed, just as polls opened at 7 a.m., said inspector Marie Heath. Heath said it took around five minutes to clear the jam. Ballots were inserted manually into the machine until the repairs were made, Heath said.
“We had some problems but we didn’t lose any ballots,” Heath said.
Another voting machine suffered the same problem with a jammed ballot at the Anniston City Meeting Center, said inspector Betty Daugherty. That machine was cleared in about 15 minutes as well, Daugherty said, and no ballots were lost. Around 20 voters were asked to manually insert their ballots into that machine, Daugherty said.
Voters in cities and towns around Calhoun County and the rest of Alabama are going to the polls today to elect mayors and members of city councils and some school boards. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. statewide.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter contributed to this report.