Manassas Journal Messenger | Manassas Park encountered problems at polls

By this time next year, Manassas Park should have one more voting precinct, for a total of two.

Manassas Park election officials finished counting ballots from Tuesday’s election at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“Part of the problem is that we are too big,” said Manassas Park Voting Registrar Patricia Brendel.

Many voters reported long waits in Manassas Park, similar to many other polling places across the nation.

State law requires precincts to adjust when they have 5,000 or more active voters.

Manassas Park’s one precinct had 5,400 registered voters, with approximately 4,980 of them active. Prince William County also had three precincts — Buckhall, Linton Hall and Bristow Run, all in the Brentsville District — with more than 5,000 registered voters each.

The county also plans to create new precincts, although the effort may take a while because of state and federal government involvement, said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large.

Connaughton visited 10 to 15 precincts Tuesday and saw people waiting an hour or longer at half of them, he said.

“I think that were gong to have to go back and examine changing some of the boundaries and/or expanding the number of machines to speed up the voting,” he said.

Manassas Park will locate its new precinct at the recreation center at Costello Park in time for the Nov. 2005 election, Brendel said. Manassas Drive will be a north-south dividing line for the two city precincts.

“We probably couldn’t do it down [Va.] 28, because it’s getting more weighted on one side.” Brendel said.

The number of voters at the two precincts should be almost even, Brendel said.

With many new town houses and condominiums in Manassas Park and the coming downtown-style Park Center development near City Hall, the city desperately needs the split, Brendel said.

Voters in Manassas Park actually waited longer in 2000, Brendel said.

This year voting results were not available on election night.

The officials may have taken a long time Tuesday because of the many write-ins. The officials also felt tired from a full day of nasty voters, Brendel said.

“People were rude all day at the polls to our volunteers, and by the time they had to do the counting, they were physically and mentally exhausted,” Brendel said.

She couldn’t explain the voters’ anger.

“We couldn’t understand why people were just being so rude,” Brendel said. “They were abusive. I don’t know where they came from.”

Manassas Park resident Teresa Moore waited in line for approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. She said she saw some residents complain, and one man “was a little nasty.”

“I’m sure people get ornery when there’s a two-hour wait,” Moore said. “But all in all, people were patient.”

The city could have accommodated handicapped residents better with a waiting area to sit, she said. Some people on the line disliked the short wait for people with last names beginning with A through F, while people with last names beginning with G through M waited longer, Moore said.

In general, officials set up the process well and were accommodating, she said.

Manassas City’s election went smoothly, with unofficial results tallied by 8:30 p.m., and no problems reported by poll workers, said Manassas Registrar Linda Womack.

Manassas used the new electronic voting machines in the May local elections, while Manassas Park voters used them for the first time Tuesday.

Manassas voters came to the polls early in the day and the precincts had many experienced election officials, Womack said. Those factors helped the election run well, she said.

Manassas has five precincts for 19,011 registered voters.

Sometimes Manassas Park officials finish counting ballots by 8:30 p.m. It varies each year, Brendel said.

Prince William County reported results from all 61 precincts shortly after midnight. Prince William County has 190,274 registered voters.

While Connaughton saw county voters as mostly patient, traffic in and out of polling places did pose a problem, he said.

Dignitaries from Belarus and Kyrgyzstan visited Manassas during the election.

“They were so impressed with our election officials,” Womack said. “They said ‘we just couldn’t get over it’.”

As for Manassas Park’s election officials, some decided not to return next year, Brendel said.

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