Election 2008

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Mark Avery/AP
Drive-through voting in Santa Ana,
California

Record Turnout Forces Polls to Open in Odd Places

November 04, 2008 01:04 PM
by Christopher Coats
From hot dog stands to drive-through operations, to a Houston man’s garage, polling places across the nation have popped up in the most unusual locations to accommodate the record crowds.

Unusual Polling Places

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In Orange County, Calif., the register of voters went so far as to set up a drive-through polling place, as well as locations at the local airport to accommodate the expected deluge of voters this year.

“More states are experimenting with alternative locations,” Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College told the Los Angeles Times. “There’s voting at mini-malls, at Wal-Marts. They’re very worried about problems on election day, so they’re trying to spread it out.”

This year, 31 states took part in early voting, reporting record high numbers and long lines across the country.

According to FiveThirtyEight, in Georgia alone, almost 2 million voters went to the polls during early voting, compared to 3 million overall in 2004.

In Colorado, almost half of the state’s registered voters cast their ballots during early voting.

In addition to early voting, several states reversal of a rule requiring an official excuse to cast an absentee ballot helped increase participation in the days and weeks running up to Nov. 4.

This upsurge in voter participation and enthusiasm has forced some states to extend their hours, and in many cases, open new polling locations in sites one might never have thought would host an election.

Laundromats, gyms and Target stores were just some of the locations transformed into polling places over the last few weeks.
However, not all locations are new—many out of the ordinary polling locations have long been official, though few have been used to such attention or use.

In Houston, Texas, John Martin opened his garage once again to host his neighborhood’s voters. Although his garage has been open on Election Day for 15 years, turnout hovered somewhere around 20 voters. This year, however, Martin’s is home to seven machines to accommodate the more than 300 people expected to cast their votes.

Exception: No shirt, no shoes, no vote

Despite high numbers reported in Florida, one emergency polling place did not meet the state’s requirements. The Caliente Resort sought approval for a nudist polling location from Pascoe County, but was turned down, not for its clothing-optional theme, but because they said it had missed the state’s deadline for the 2008 election.

Reference: Find your polling place

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