JeffCo polling problems to be examined - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

JeffCo polling problems to be examined

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Now that election talk is beginning to die down, there's discussion about problems at the polling places in Jefferson County. The biggest issue are the long lines.

The county used its employees instead of contracted workers to save money. While that worked, long lines and several hour wait times at some places were a problem.

County leaders don't want it to happen again.

Jefferson County road workers folded up "vote here" signs and rolled voting machines from polling places into storage on Thursday. They are part of a group of 50 county workers stepping up to replace contracted ones. It saved the county several hundred thousand dollars on Election Day.

"The county is in a personnel crunch. We have to lead from this office," said Justin Smith, the county manager's assistant.

For Smith, leading meant leaving his desk job and working a sixteen hour day to fix technical problems, like ballot jams.

"It's very exciting to see the democratic process firsthand, to see the excitement of the people, the turnout. You take pride in your community. It's also exhausting. It's a long day," he said.

Other employees volunteered for the long day and the long line of voters.

Three to four hour lines stretched through parking lots even neighborhoods. The lines and even parking problems forced many voters, including Commissioner Joe Knight, to leave. He came back but is concerned others didn't.

"People should not be deterred from voting because they see a long line and don't have time to wait," said Knight.

The county is now reviewing the system. Changes could include adding two voting machines into busy precincts, like Hunter Street Baptist Church; splitting some polling locations and even changing how the alphabet is broken down to form lines.

"You should be able to go and reasonably vote in 45 minutes or an hour if that long," said Knight.

Some of the employees who helped replace the contracted workers are part of a small group cross trained to help in seasonably busy departments. They'll move onto the tax collector's office next.

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