Expect a late night waiting for results in Baldwin County after a day of record voter turnout, says Probate Judge Tim Russell.
At 7 p.m., five or six of the larger precincts still had lines of people waiting to vote. They included Daphne, Fairhope, Foley and Gulf Shores, Russell said.
Anyone still in line at 7 p.m. were to be brought inside the polling place and the doors locked until all had voted. Because of the lines and the distance between the south part of the county and the county seat in Bay Minette, results will be delayed, Russell said.
Russell estimated 80 percent turnout, basing his estimate on visits to precincts throughout Tuesday. “It’s incredible, but it could be more,” he said.
Anecdotal evidence abounded in traffic jams and lines of people wrapped around buildings and parking lots. Voters reported waits of an hour or more during the morning.
Some looked at the lines and decided to come back later.
“I drove by here about five times before I finally got in line,” said George Zimmerman, waiting at Foley City Hall about 1:30 p.m.. “I think three-fourths of the folks here are L to Z.”
The polling place set up canopies so people wouldn’t have to stand in the rain, and Foley police helped keep the line divided by the first letter of the last name to help things move more quickly.
Although the canopies stretched around the southwest corner of the building, there still weren’t enough of them earlier in the day, said Aaron Morin, training coordinator for the Foley Police Department. In the morning people lined up all the way around the building. Despite the lines and the drivers crawling around in search of a parking place, Morin said there were no problems.
The size of the polling place didn’t seem to matter. Poll workers at the Fish River Marlow Fire & Rescue station said voters were lined up in a double circle in the parking lot when polls opened, and between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. the polling place was so packed with people it was difficult to move around.
At the Daphne Civic Center, there weren’t enough tables and chairs to go around. People literally sat on the floor to cast their ballots or propped them up on the stage. Poll workers made sure that disabled people or elderly people needing assistance were moved to the front of the lines to sign in and get their ballot inserted into counting machines.
“It’s really crowded in there,” said Dorothy Medynksi. She said she didn’t have a problem voting because people saw her walker and sent her to the front of the line.
“I just hope they voted for the right one,” Medynksi said. She did not say who the right one was.
James and Bennie Lee also voted at the Daphne Civic Center. “I was a little stunned when I voted,” James Lee said. “There were folks everywhere.”
Bennie Lee admitted to having voted Democratic, but said God would have the last word. “We’re just going to let the Lord work it out now.”
Russell said assisting voters who needed it was by design. Poll workers were instructed to move anyone over 70 or disabled to the front of the line. “We really worked on that because we have so many senior citizens in our county.”
But the overall turnout surprised even Russell. “We just never expected this many,” he said.
Baldwin County had no local contested races and only one Democratic candidate outside the presidential campaign. However, the fast-growing county has seen 30,000 new registered voters in the last four years, including 17,000 in the past year, Russell said. Most of those new voters have come in from out of state.
For that reason, regardless of the final percentage turnout, the total number of voters in Baldwin County is expected to set a record. Russell said he thinks the previous percentage record was 70 percent, but he will have to do some research to get the specifics. He reported no major problems at the polls.
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