High turnout brings problems – Record 80 percent of county’s voters cast ballots last week

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Almost 80 percent of Shelby County voters turned out last Tuesday for the general election – 79,212 to be specific.

There are about 100,690 registered voters in the county, according to the board of registrars.

That voter total includes the 317 provisional ballots cast in the county, a surprising number, according to Registrar Marti Dillard, since the county usually averages only 10, she said.

Provisional ballots are cast by those not on the voter list at the polls.

Dillard said her office had been busy researching those provisional ballots and would present them to the Probate Judge’s office on Tuesday afternoon to be certified. Total votes cast without the provisional additions were 78,895.

With the enormous voter turnout in the county, inevitably, there were some problems, according to election official Probate Judge Patricia Fuhrmeister.

&uot;The unprecedented number of voters caused a number of problems,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s a great problem to have.&uot;

Some of the county’s largest precincts, for instance, ran into trouble.

The Pelham Civic Complex, the county’s largest polling location, was not large enough, it turned out.

There was not enough room to accommodate the number of voters who reported to that location. Final vote tallies, at presstime, indicate 8,055 voters cast ballots at the civic center.

Fuhrmeister said parking was inadequate and lines were long with sheriff’s deputies responding to at least one incident.

Another election official, Sheriff Chris Curry, said pouring rain and heavy traffic also contributed to the problems.

He said he was aware of waits at polling places like the civic center from an hour-and-a-half to two hours, 15 minutes.

Curry said there were some &uot;short tempers and irritated people.&uot;

Another polling place which encountered problems was St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Montevallo, where 2,590 votes were cast.

Fuhrmeister said the church can no longer accommodate the number of voters and she will request that the County Commission remedy the situation there by finding an alternate voting location.

At the civic center site, she said she has requested the commission, which set the polling places, divide the precinct into two or three at other locations.

Staff writers Patrick Crotty and Fred Guarino contributed to this report.