Islanders can't wait to cast their ballots

Terry Murphy casts her ballot at the BPA Playhouse Tuesday morning. An estimated 40 people were waiting outside when the polls opened at 7 a.m. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Terry Murphy casts her ballot at the BPA Playhouse Tuesday morning. An estimated 40 people were waiting outside when the polls opened at 7 a.m.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

The Election Day flood had nothing to do with yesterday’s heavy rain.

The greater downpour came from island voters spilling into polling places and clogging ballot boxes.

“They flooded in when we opened and it’s been constant ever since,” said poll worker George McKinney as he helped voters cram ballots into large blue boxes at the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse Tuesday morning.

“Over 40 people were waiting outside when we opened at seven,” McKinney said. “We’ve had such a high turnout, we added two extra workers to help here.”

With the hotly contested presidency at stake, as well as the Washington governorship and many other federal, state and county positions, Kitsap County had already reached 50 percent turnout of registered voters by Monday through mail-in ballots.

That number is expected to swell to about 85 percent, according to county Auditor Karen Flynn, who also faced her own flood at the County Courthouse in Port Orchard.

“It’s really hopping here,” she said over the racket of a busy office. “We’re getting so many calls – people asking where they can vote and whether they’re registered. It’s overloaded our phone system. There’s nine people on the phone right now.”

Flynn said she had received almost 70,000 ballots Monday out of 138,956.

“We expect a huge volume of additional ballots coming in by mail today and tomorrow,” she said.

Poll inspector Peggy Booth, who has helped run elections for almost six years, said she had never seen such a high initial turnout as she witnessed at the Playhouse.

The turnout certainly tops the 2000 presidential election, she said, which drew 79 percent of eligible voters countywide.

“Oh, this is much bigger,” Booth said. “People are really passionate about this election.”

Tim Goss was passionate enough to charge into the rain and cold on his bicycle to get to the polls.

“I always vote,” he said as rain dripped off his glasses. “But I’m really excited about this election and the turnout here. We have a participatory government, so it always works better if more people participate.”

Garrett Kimzey walked out of the polls wearing a rain-speckled firefighter’s uniform and a smile on his face.

“It felt good,” he said. “I came in earlier, before work, but there was a big line. I got permission to come back. My vote definitely counts this election.”

Various volunteers stood by inside the Playhouse, guiding voters to the appropriate desk to get their ballot and monitoring the proceedings.

Most of the voting booths were full throughout the morning, and the line often ran to the back door of the lobby.

McKinney knew more people would be determined to turn out at the polls, and made sure he had extra vote-gathering capacity.

“During the primary we had only one box, but so many people turned out we had to jam them in,” he said. “We learned our lesson and brought two.”

Striving for impartiality, McKinney took care with the arrangement of the boxes.

“When I set them down I noticed one was on the right and one was on the left,” he said. “And I thought, ‘uh-oh.’ I moved them to avoid the symbolism.

“Now people don’t vote right or left, they vote up or down.”

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