Early Voters Brave Long Lines in L.A. County

Times Staff Writers

The last day to vote in advance found a long line of voters at the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office in Norwalk today, where residents waited patiently to cast their ballots on touch-screen computers.

More than 2,000 Los Angeles County residents were expected to vote today; bringing the total who have voted in advance to about 65,000, according to registrar Conny McCormack. That is only a fraction of the nearly 3 million ballots that the county recorder expects to tabulate for Tuesday's election.

"Potentially, this will be the highest turnout we've ever had in this county," McCormack said.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles voters will use an ink-marked paper ballot at an estimated 4,500 polling places. But between Oct. 20 to Oct. 29, the county had set up electronic voting machines in 17 locations for residents who wanted to cast ballots in advance. Today, the only voting machines still available were those at the registrar-recorder's headquarters in southeastern Los Angeles County.

Most of the people who lined up to use one of the 27 touch-screen voting machines in Norwalk had discovered that they would not be able to cast their ballots tomorrow because of last minute personal commitments and work schedules. Others were there because they were curious about the high-tech era of voting.

"I wanted to try the touch screens," said Corrine Carlos, 47, a printer from Monterey Park. "I thought it was very fast, very easy."

This morning, most people waited about 20 minutes to cast their ballots; and then spent an average of about 10 minutes to vote. Waiting times were expected to lengthen this afternoon. The Norwalk voting office will be open until 5 p.m. today.

Neil Punt, a 20-year-old Biola University student, expected longer lines, but was pleasantly surprised to finish the process relatively quickly. "No matter how long it takes, it's a very important election and people need to exercise their right to vote," Punt said.

Nationally, election officials have reported record numbers of early voters, including nearly 2 million in Florida, according to Associated Press.

In Florida today, some voters waited more than three hours in some polling places to cast their ballots.

Estimates of the total number of Americans who will vote this year have ranged from 100 million to 125 million.

In a recent survey of registered voters, only 62% said they were "very confident" that their votes would be counted accurately, according to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey showed.

Higher levels of confidence were found among supporters of President Bush than those who were committed to Sen. John F. Kerry; 79% of Bush voters said they were "very confident" that their votes would be counted accurately compared to 48% of Kerry voters.

In general, rural residents were more likely to be confident in the voting process than city dwellers.

High levels of confidence also were found among high-income individuals and those who attended religious services more than once a week. The lowest levels of confidence were found among African Americans and young voters.

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