Long voting lines unavoidable at NW OK County precinct, says Election Board

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Voters stuck in excessively long lines Tuesday flooded the Oklahoma County Election Board office Tuesday and Wednesday, asking for a change before November. However, election board officials said it's really out of their hands.

Many of the complaints came from Precinct 130, located in St. Elijah Church at the corner of NW 150th and May. Voters told News 4 they had to wait in lines for over two hours, an inconvenience they said they couldn't afford.

Oklahoma County Election Board Secretary Doug Sanderson said it's only the 15th largest precinct in the county.

"We have many precincts that are larger that had more voters, had the same number of workers, and everything went well," he said.

But he's still fielding emails from people with suggestions on how to improve it next time.

Sanderson said one of the problems may be that that location is shared with Precinct 131, which may have fewer voters and shorter lines.

"So people in the long line will wonder why can't our line look like that?" he said.

Three people are required at each of the 257 precincts in the county, but with only a little over 700 workers committed to showing up election day, it's hard to add anymore at the locations.

"When you lose 50 people at the beginning of the year and 188 a month prior to the election, everyday we're losing people," Sanderson said.

Even on Super Tuesday, he said 27 people called in unable to show up.

It means election officials are constantly redistributing workers right up until the last minute. There are places he would like to add more workers, but he can't.

There are other factors that could contribute to the long lines, like all the seconds and minutes each unprepared person takes at the front of the line to fish out their ID, or remember with which party they're affiliated. All that time creates a bottleneck.

At this location, Sanderson said, they did send an extra worker near the end of the day. They tried to speed up the voting process by splitting up voters based on political affiliation. Because the officials only had one set of books each to sign in Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Libertarians, he said that would have been the only way for two people to sign people in at the same time.

"They didn't want to do it," Sanderson said. "So the thing they'd been asking for all day, I tried to do to help wrap it up at the end of the day, they weren't having it."

And at the end of the day, without more people volunteering to go through the training and be a paid worker, he can't guarantee November will be any better.

"The only way on earth to avoid lines is to vote by mail," Sanderson said.

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