Your Photos: Election Day in SW Florida
2008 ELECTION - Nov. 4, 2008
- VIDEO: Voting is quick and easy in Naples
- VIDEO: Steady Election Day turnout
- VIDEO: Candidates campaign in Collier
- VIDEO: Voices from the polls
- VIDEO: RAW VIDEO: Collier precinct
- PHOTOS: Election Day: Nov. 4, 2008
- PHOTOS: User-submitted photos of Election 2008 via Participate
- PHOTOS: Southwest Florida prepares for Election Day
- BLOG: Get updates from Election Day in our blog
- EXIT POLLS: Check out our exit polls from Election Day
- SUBMIT YOUR STUFF: Submit your Election Day photos & video
A New Issue: Press access to voters
Beyond the occasional jammed scanner, another precinct malfunction is surfacing: Pollworkers misinformed about press access to voters.
Pollworkers barred a Naples Daily News reporter from an Estero precinct this morning when he tried to conduct exit polling in the parking lot.
In Bonita Springs, two pollworkers in different precincts offered a similar take on the law: Reporters, like campaign volunteers pumping their signs and leaflets, must remain beyond the 100-foot boundary solicitor line.
That was the explanation offered when I arrived for exit polling at Precinct 221, in the Collier County side of Bonita Springs. Moments after I approached the first voters, a volunteer pollworker instructed me to stay behind the boundary, an orange cone set up 100 feet behind the precinct's exit door. When at one point I stepped a foot beyond the cone while talking to a voter, I was warned not to do it again.
The pollworker was mistaken.
Florida Statute 101.031(4)(b) states the following: "The terms 'solicit' or 'solicitation' shall not be construed to prohibit exit polling."
When I pointed this out to the pollworker, I was handed over to the precinct clerk, who in turn called the Collier County election office. She confirmed the statute.
The pollworker and clerk were both cordial after the phone call, and they explained they were trainers to treat reporters as solilcitors, to be kept beyond the 100-foot boundary. There was a fear reporters would harass voters if allowed too close.
To be sure, some voters don't want to take an exit poll. Maybe they're in a hurry to get back to work, are reluctant to give up their votes and or simply dislike polls. Others don't mind the poll, and some are eager to give their opinions.
Either way, voters are allowed to make their own choices about exit polling. Voters deciding for themselves, go figure.
Coletta releases volunteers to work for Diaz-Balart, Saunders
Republican Collier County Commission District 5 candidate Jim Coletta was pleased with naplesnews.com exit poll results for his race against Democrat Russell Kish early this afternoon.
So pleased that he released his volunteers to go work for both U.S. Congressional candidates Coletta supports, Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Independent Burt Saunders.
300 voters per hour at one Collier polling station
Poll workers at the two precincts at the Collier County University of Florida Extension in Golden Gate Estates reported a stream of 300 voters per hour for the first three hours after the polls opened and about 250 voters per hour through mid afternoon.
Two voting machines malfunction in Collier; turnout at 58 percent so far
Collier County has had to replace two malfunctioning optical-scanning machines, but otherwise hasn't had major hiccups as about 30,000 residents have voted so far today, Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards said this afternoon.
When including early and absentee voters, turnout in the county has hit about 58 percent of registered voters as of 3 p.m., with 83 of 93 polling sites checking in, Edwards said. That means at least 118,000 of the county's 203,000 registered voters have cast their ballots.
The county enjoyed 77 percent turnout during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.
Edwards said this Election Day has been a bit slower than she anticipated.
"I expected longer lines," she said.
As for the problematic voting machines, they were replaced within an hour or so of breaking down, Edwards said, and voting wasn't interrupted.
"Other than that, we haven't received any reports of any significant problems," she said.
Obama supporters greet voters outside Elks Lodge
Leinie Martin and Marian Hersrud had a nice set-up Tuesday afternoon, sitting in a patch of shade at the Elks Lodge parking lot on Radio Road, precinct 319.
The two women sat in lawn chairs beside Barack Obama signs, nodding to people entering and exiting.
"I had some older veterans I talked to, a couple of minorities," said Martin. "Otherwise, we're in McCain territory."
Still, the women said the scene there had been civil since they got there at 7 a.m., with the opening of the polls.
"I have a Republicans for Obama sticker on my car and I haven't been rear-ended once," said Hersrud with a laugh.
After lunch time, voters trickled in and out of the polling station at a snail's pace, following a rush in the morning that lasted about an hour, with about 20 people lined up outside the door until 8 a.m.
They said they had heard of few problems at the polling site, other than an occasional voter confused by the six referendum issues on the ballot. Martin even gave a ride to one elderly voter who arrived at the Elks Lodge, only to find that he was at the wrong polling place.
Firefighter grateful for early voting opportunities
Kevin Nelmes is giving thanks today for early voting.
He actually voted today, but for many of the people he works with, it is a lifesaver.
Nelmes is president of the International Association of Fire Fighters union local chapter 2396, representing about 80 people in East Naples.
"We are very thankful for the process of early voting," he said. "We as a group, meaning public safety officers, including fire fighters, law enforcement and EMS, are certainly thankful for that process because it allows us to continue in our chosen profession without an interruption in service."
Without early voting, Nelmes said, many fire fighters in East Naples might have been late for shifts or missed out on voting altogether.
Retirees turn out for GOP in Bayside Estates
Precinct 22 in Lee County votes at Bayside Estates, a neat and trim mobile home retirement community near Fort Myers Beach. Voters there were liking Republicans and incumbents on Tuesday.
John Murray and his friend Becky Nonemaker voted right down the Republican ticket.
"I couldn't see it in Obama," said Murray.
Murray said he thought Obama selected Joe Biden as his running mate trying to lend credibility to the ticket. He admitted he was taken aback by McCain's selection of Sarah Palin.
"McCain's getting Palin and I'm saying 'What are you thinking about?'" he said. "But you've got to vote. Out of the two it was McCain."
One Bonita precinct nears 80 percent turnout
By mid-afternoon in precinct 135 in Bonita Springs, clerk Bob Schroeder said they were just 100 votes away from hitting 80 percent voter turnout.
By 1:30 p.m. 201 people had voted there, and 5 had cast a provisional ballot.
In precinct 168, which shares the same polling place at the First Baptist Church in Bonita Springs, 280 people had voted.
"There have been no major issues," Schroeder said. A few voters weren't sure which precinct they were registered in, and at least one learned they had registered too late this year. And while one voter's ballot had crumpled while being scanned, nothing jammed or caused delays.
There was no line, but Schroeder expected one to reappear at the end of the day.
Malfunctioning optical scanner snarls voting in Bonita
Elsewhere, a malfunctioning optical scanner is now operational at Precinct 166 in Bonita Springs.
The scanner was jammed for much of the morning, forcing voters to pull crinkled ballots out of the feed mechanism and deposit them in a cardboard box.
Jim Tindall, a volunteer pollworker, said a technician found the problem: The upper, ballot reading part of the machine wasn't square with the lower basket that catches the scanned ballots. The ballots were therefore catching instead of falling into the basket.
The precinct, at Timber Wilde Drive in Bonita Springs, has experienced no problems since the technician left, Tindall said. There are no lines at the poll and voters are moving in and out with ease.
Earlier in the morning, voters were forced to place their ballots in a cardboard box as poll workers wait for a technician to look at the problem.
The precinct is number 166, at an Ironstone Bank on Timber Wilde Road, which is just off U.S. 41.
"It didn't work at the beginning," said volunteer Jim Tindall. "We had it work for about 100 ballots, then it stopped working."
When a voter places his ballot into the scanner feed slot, the machine beeps, and a message appears on the screen: "There is an issue with your ballot."
The ballot then jams in the machine, forcing the voter to pull it back out. No ballots have been lost, Tindall emphasized.
"We still have a valid ballot," he said.
A line of voters had backed up as they awaited a working scanner. Just after 10 p.m., the volunteers told the voters to deposit their ballots into the box. Poll workers called a technician, though they're not sure when the person will arrive.
Voter Steven Vokoun, 65, was mildly skeptical after he pulled his from the jammed machine and put it into the box.
"If the machine breaks down, can they collect them all? How will we be reassured they'll be counted?" he wondered.
Others were confident. Marian Welzmuller, 61, said she trusted poll workers.
"They're good volunteers," she said. "They're going to do the right thing."