Flooding may have caused low voter turnout in Lee


At precinct 132 in Lee County on Election Day, the pressing local issue was clear: flooding.

The displacement of several hundred people in Bonita Springs following a tropical storm — and efforts to help them — had taken center stage at Estero Community Park. That set the park’s polling site apart from other precincts in Collier and south Lee counties.

<img src="http://ms2.naplesnews.com/npdn/content/img/photos/2008/08/26/080826NS-MF-Floodday445_t600.jpg" width="352" />Waters rose again on Tuesday, flooding dozens of homes west of Interstate 75 as the sheet flow moves through Bonita Springs and causing the Imperial River to overflow it banks. Michel Fortier

What most polling sites had in common Tuesday was a general absence of voters, and a general thumbs-up for the new voting machines.

Voters entering the park’s community center were a trickle compared with the volunteers and professionals who were trying to make life comfortable for the families staying in the park’s gymnasium, said Jack Pollock, an Estero resident who was running operations at the polling place.

For those who showed up to vote, he said, the new voting procedures hadn’t caused confusion.

“It’s been good. We haven’t had a lot of people complaining,” he said. “Even I could vote.”

Betty Lounds, who voted at Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church in North Naples, was impressed with the new vote-scanning machines, which replaced touch-screen balloting.

“I thought it was easy to use,” Lounds said.

Bob Koon had his vote rejected.

“Mine messed up,” said Koon, who voted at the Bayside Estates clubhouse near Fort Myers Beach.

Koon said someone forgot to tear the tab off the bottom of his ballot at first, and the machine spat it back at him, but it worked when someone tore off the tab.

Carolyn Earle voted soon after Koon.

“I like the new system,” she said. “I like being able to color in with a pen and feed the machine. I think a lot of people become confused pushing the buttons.”

Frank and Maryann Kunze voted for the first time in Florida, having moved from Pennsylvania.

“It was simple,” he said. “Simpler than up North.”

At Precinct 462 at St. John’s Episcopal Church off Crayton Road in Naples, voters trickled in.

“It’s one at a time. Basically no lines. No waiting,” said Sandra Rogers, precinct clerk.

Back at Estero Community Park, where the flood evacuees were staying, Spanish was heard over the loudspeakers, announcing the arrival of a county bookmobile, for instance.

And just a few more voters trickled in. -- Elizabeth Wright

Staff writers Charlie Whitehead, Liz Freeman and Matt Clark contributed to this story.

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