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Votes

Voter Turn-out Lower than Expected

Few Glitches with New Machines

Herndon High students Sally Elevine and Jessie Hill, neither old enough to vote, amused themselves outside of Herndon Middle School Tuesday afternoon waiting for voters to walk by. The pair handed out Republican sample ballots and flyers to earn community service and extra credits for school. In the process they got a little lesson in the voting process.

"We went inside to use the bathroom and they told us we had to take our stickers off so we couldn't influence the voters," Jessie said.

"I thought that was strange," Sally said.

Generally though, the experience was not a top-10 memory maker for either teen.

"It hasn't really been exciting," Jessie said.

"Some people have been kind of harsh," Sally said about people’s responses when the girls offered them campaign literature.

INSIDE THINGS were running smoothly and steadily, said the precinct's assistant chief voting official Debra Taylor. In general, she said voters have liked the new touch-screen voting machines. By 5 p.m., the precinct had seen about 600 voters, and had few glitches.

"We had one machine that never did work," Taylor said. "But the other four are working fine."

A similar scenario was playing out at the Floris precinct at Floris Elementary School, said chief election official Nicholas Dorosheff. One of their machines malfunctioned, knocking them down to four and one of those was also causing some problems, he said.

"We had a good response from the public. Even today, a majority of people said they like the new machines. They're user friendly," Dorosheff said.

As for the people using them, he said the precinct was at about 20 percent turn out with less than three hours to go, which Dorosheff said, historically is about average for Floris in an off-year election. He did not expect the numbers to rise above 25 percent by the close of the polls, since they had a large push in the morning.

"We've had a steady flow. There were already people in line at 6 this morning [when the polls opened]. There were people in the hall at 5:30," Dorosheff said.

AT THE HERNDON COMMUNITY CENTER, election officials were waiting for a last surge of voters as people were stopping by on their way home from work.

"It usually picks up between 5 and 7," said Bill Boning, the chief official at the center. "It was fairly busy this morning. It's fairly weak [overall], we think."

Boning said that by 4 p.m., about 892 voters had cast their ballot at the center. The voting machines, he said, weren't winning rave reviews from everybody. Unlike at Floris and Herndon Middle where the machines were praised, some voting at the center complained about the new machines Boning said.

Even so, the election officials liked the new technology, even if there were still some bugs to work out. The telephone line needed to transmit the results from the machines to the state Board of Elections was not working, meaning Boning would have to call in the results from another line.

"Everything’s been running fairly smoothly," Boning said. "It's better than before."

Overall, voter turn out seemed to have been lower than most people had hoped or expected. Jim Kelly, the Democratic candidate for the 86th House of Delegates seat, said of the precincts he had visited throughout the day, the Herndon Community Center had drawn the biggest crowd.

"The turn out is better here than the other places I've been," he said.

Del. Tom Rust (R), the person Kelly was trying to unseat, said reports he was getting were that the turn out had not been good across the county. Rust said he visited all the precincts in the 86th District.

"The turn out has been less than expected," Rust said, "which is disappointing for everyone