By Roger Lee, Leslie Cantu, Jim Tatum and Judy Watts
Update 6:18 p.m.
Reports are all over the place as poll closing looms for the 2012 election. Steve Murray reports a two-hour wait to vote at Oakbrook Middle School. Another voter, John Kurtz says his wait was two hours, ten minutes at OMS. He voted for the school bond referendums even though he homeschools his children because "he sees the need."
Other voters are breezing thought with little or no wait time in places like Bethany United Methodist Church.
Summerville High School is still going strong with long lines of voters all day. As of 6:15 the lines were all the way down the breezeway and to the end of the building.
SJS writer Leslie Cantu reports "huge lines at Oakbrook Middle School." The wait is about 1.5 hours to get to the door.
Reports from precincts indicate very light voting at this time. Two reports from Bethany United Methodist Church indicate there are no lines and voting takes only a few minutes. Earlier in the day the scene at Bethany was, as one voter described it, "insane."
Update: 3:15 p.m.
Turnout at the local polls has been strong today but waiting lines in the early afternoon aren’t that bad, at least at some precincts.
By 1 p.m. at Knightsville United Methodist Church the wait was only 20 minutes. Voters and poll workers were in good spirits as things moved along nicely, a far different scene from this morning.
“When we opened the doors there were about, to be conservative, 80 people waiting to vote,” poll worker David George said. “It was raining so we let them all in and the line wrapped along the wall all the way to the other side of the gymnasium.”
He says turnout so far is about the same as it was four years ago for the last general election.
“We’ve seen about 42 percent of registered voters and there is still six hours to go so that’s pretty good,” George said. “I’m sure between 4-7 (p.m.) we’ll get another big push when people start getting off work.”
He estimates his precinct saw a couple dozen first-time voters early in the day. Those who are kind enough to share this with the workers get a round of applause on their way out.
Similarly, at Dorchester Presbyterian Church, a voter who joked “can you tell I’m a first-time voter?” when she wasn’t sure where to go generated whoops and applause from the four poll workers at the registration table.
The church, which hosts the Ashborough East precincts, recorded 49 percent turnout, including absentee votes, by about 2 p.m.
The day started out busy but slowed after 10 a.m., so voters were walking right up to the registration table.
It was the same story at Old Fort Baptist Church and Grace Lutheran Church.
At the beginning of the day, there was “a line like it was Disneyland,” at Grace Lutheran, which hosts the Brandymill precincts, said poll worker Teresa McMahan.
“Everybody’s been very nice and polite and understanding,” she said.
Other polling places seemed to remain busy throughout the lunch period.
At Cathedral of Praise, voters were waiting between two and two-and-a-half hours, with 500 people voting by noon.
Old Fort, which hosts the Ashborough West precincts, saw only 29 percent turnout, including absentees, as of shortly after 2 p.m.
It had been busy until about noon, though, poll workers said.
The school bond referendum had strong support from voters who were interviewed.
“You just see the need,” said Kathy Larson, whose granddaughter attends class in a trailer.
Dianne Dube doesn’t have children in school now, but she supported the referendum because “they’re in dire need.”
Michael Stalb voted for the school bond partly for selfish reasons, as he has children in school, but also as an investment in the future.
“This is a growing area and you’ve just got to stay ahead of that,” he said.
He voted against the aquatic center, however.
Spencer Craven, on the other hand, voted against the school bond. He didn’t elaborate on his reasons.
Other voters didn’t feel strongly about the bond referendum. James Dyal said he went to the polls because he’s concerned about the future and wants to make sure his family’s business is able to stay in business.
Nita Toler said she just didn’t have enough information about the school bond, so she didn’t vote on the question.
By Leslie Cantu and Jim Tatum
The Journal Scene
Update: 11:47 a.m.
The races are on hot and heavy right from the starting gates.
Poll workers throughout Summerville report that voters were waiting for them when the polls opened at 7 a.m., sometimes in long lines in the rain.
The wait now depends on the polling place. At Flowertown Elementary, voters are waiting about 30 minutes to vote, whereas at Summerville High, voters are waiting an hour-and-a-half or more.
Voters at Knightsville United Methodist Church reported an hour wait.
At Alston Middle, voters were waiting an hour just to get to the front door, then faced another wait once inside.
Despite the long lines at Summerville High, which included a wait even for curbside voting, voters moved briskly once they got to the voting booth.
Poll workers regularly called out “next!” as children squirmed and adults stood stoically in the cafeteria.
“For the most part, people are very congenial,” said Clerk Randy Busse at Bethany United Methodist Church, where voters were waiting about 40 minutes to get to the front of the line.
At Carolina Precinct, which votes at Faith Sellers Senior Center in Summerville, between 50 and 100 people were waiting for the polls to open at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
“It’s been strong,” Gina Denson, a poll worker at the Faith Sellers Senior Center said. “It’s a heavier turnout than in 2008.”
Election Commissioner Marc Melfi, who has been working the U.S. 178 corridor, reported heavy turnouts at the Dorchester Career Center, Clay Middle School, Harleyville Middle School, Ridgeville Community Center, and Indian Field Fire Departments.
The morning has not been without some confusion, however. Several people reported being sent to multiple polling places before they were finally able to cast their ballots.
A few voters who agreed to be interviewed said they voted in favor of the school bond referendum.
Jackie Scahill, who moved her from Ohio, said it’s time to open new schools. One of her children attends the particularly overcrowded Knightsville Elementary.
“The taxes here are so cheap. It’s not going to cost that much to open new schools,” she said.
Nico Gonzalves said he voted in favor of the referendum because he thought it was needed, while over at Alston Middle, Maxine and Quiauna Jenkins also voted in favor.
“Education is important to kids – to keep them from doing other stuff,” Maxine Jenkins said.
By Leslie Cantu
The Journal Scene
Voting was going strong as the Journal Scene went to press Tuesday. By 10 a.m., 347 people had voted at Alston Middle School.
The wait at Bethany UMC was standing at over an hour as it was at several other polling places.
After months of electioneering, court battles, sign stealing accusations, and letters to the editor, voters were finally alone with their ballots.
The most contentious issue locally is probably the school bond referendum for Dorchester School District 2, which asks for $179.9 million to build and improve schools as well as address maintenance needs. The follow-on referendum, for $7.5 million for an aquatic center, has gained less support, with even some school board candidates saying they won’t vote for it.
There was some precinct confusion Tuesday. Spann Elementary School hosts two precincts – Spann and Greenhurst – but the polling places are in different parts of the school, meaning some voters stood in the wrong line for 30 minutes before being redirected to the correct polling place.
By 8:30 a.m., Greenhurst had recorded 135 voters and Spann had recorded 151 voters.