Judges urge voters not to wait until last minute

Tuesday, August 8, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The four poll workers at the National Guard Armory on East Ash Street talked about everything from movies to ways they plan to stay awake as the election day rolled on.

“We’re going to play basketball later on,” Debbie Turner-Smith jokingly said while leaning her head back to look at the empty gym behind her.

Turner-Smith, 52, sat at one of two adjoining folding tables with Jordan Deatherage, Tom Semmens and Blake Turner. The four election judges sat armed with binders full of the names of registered voters, instructions on which forms of identification are required to vote and illustrated pamphlets instructing voters how to use the new voting machines.

Semmens said they had only seen about 12 people come through the doors as of 8:30 a.m Tuesday.

“Typically you get the before-work, the lunch-time and the after-work,” Semmens said.

Semmens also said that compared to the City Council elections in April, voters were flying through the door.

“I remember, we had 12 (voters) by 12 p.m.,” he said, referring to the April elections.

Semmens, 65, and Turner, 59, said they have worked about six elections together. Both came prepared for a long day — Semmens equipped with a magazine and Turner with a folder full of materials for a job interview.

“Do you all request to work together?” Deatherage, 22, asked the two.

“It’s the only way we’ll work,” Turner laughed. “We’re a team.”

They all agreed that the new electronic voting machines so far had proven to be easy for the voters to use.

“We all need to change, and I think this has been a great change,” Turner-Smith said.

Semmens urged voters not to wait until the last minute to get to the polls.

“Come early, and please use the machines,” he said. “We’re here to help.”

Julie Ditmars walked out of the Armory at about 9 a.m., and echoed Semmens’ idea that poll workers were there for the voters.

“They were very eager to help,” she said.

Ditmars, 24, said that although the new voting machine was easy to use, it still made her nervous not having a paper ballot in front of her.

“But,” she said, “it (the machine) gave you chances to confirm.”

Ditmars said her neighbors pressed her to get out and vote this morning. She also said she wanted to voice her opinion on the electric bond issue on the ballot.

“I felt pretty strongly about it,” she said.

She added that she thought it was important to keep electrical equipment up to date.

William Foster, who voted at Cornerstone Baptist Church on Green Meadows Road, also said the electric bond issue was an issue he had thought and read a lot about.

“I don’t like to come in here blind,” he said.

Foster, 44, said that Amendment 1, also known as the Soils and State Park tax, was also at the forefront of his mind.

“Both are quality of life issues,” he said. “Columbia is built on the amenities. These are investments in the community.”

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