Polling place problems cast doubt on some races

FRESNO, California

The trouble started before the polls opened, with mistakes on the ballot. But by the end of Tuesday night, it only got worse for hundreds of voters.

The line wrapped all the way around the Clovis Veterans Memorial building as voters tried to cast their ballots late into the night.

"I waited like an hour and a half," said Maria Flores after finally casting her ballot. "A lot of people came."

Hundreds more lined up at The Well Community Church in northwest Fresno and the elections office in downtown Fresno and many of the polling places across the county. Some people left without voting. Others said they'd change their approach in the next election.

"Unless they change it to where they open up a lot more polling places and this doesn't happen again, I'll probably go absentee ballot because it's just, most people don't have this time of the day to come out and vote," said Christina Bailey of Clovis.

Fresno County squeezed almost 100,000 voters into 200 polling places Tuesday -- that's half as many voting locations as they've had in previous elections.

Elections clerk Victor Salazar says budget cuts forced his hand and he cut polling places and poll workers as a last resort. "This is the most challenging election I have encountered in my 10 years," he said.

Salazar said he'll try to add polling places in the next election, and do a better job of distributing voters, so lines are shorter.

Cynthia Sterling's campaign claimed Salazar made another mistake, leaving her District One county supervisor's race completely off the ballot at some locations. But Salazar says that's not the case.

"There were multiple polling precincts at a location and one of those precincts was in District One," Salazar said. "One of the precincts was not in District One."

Salazar admitted one mistake to Action News from Tuesday night: He said the last 40 people at the Orange Cove Library had to vote in the dark because the library's lights were programmed to go off at exactly 8 p.m., while people were still in line.

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