Big Turnout But No Major Problems At Jefferson County Precincts

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Priska Neely, WBHM

Horizon Church in Vestavia Hills saw a flood of voters descend Tuesday on its Columbiana Road location. But that wasn’t the only flood that precinct experienced.

“Horizon Church had their bathroom back up right early in the morning, and there was flooding in the hallway,” Jefferson County Probate Judge James P. Naftel II recalled. “We had to work with the county to get Port-O-Lets out there for those voters.”

Which, the judge said, was easier said than done.

“You don’t just snap your fingers and Port-O-Lets appear,” he said. “It took a few hours, and people were waiting outside, and sometimes they have kids.

“People had to endure a little bit more than normal on this one (election) but they rose to the occasion as they always do,” Naftel said. “I was overall relieved that things went as smoothly as they did.”

The judge said he and others working with the election process in Jefferson County were expecting the worst and hoping for the best.

There are 503,389 registered voters in the county and 325-188 – 64.4% — cast ballots, according to the county’s website. That is up from the total of 305,851 who voted in the general election four years ago.

Among the county’s 170-plus precincts, normal issues popped up, including ballot machines jamming and poll pads going down temporarily.

There also were instances of people campaigning or performing political activity within 30 feet of the doors of polling places.

Trussville City Hall and Horizon Church had long lines at times on Tuesday. There were no problems with poll pads, although they could have used more.

The real problem, he said, was the size of the facilities relative to the size of the crowds.

“We tried to move the Trussville (precinct) earlier in the year and Trussville city leaders said, ‘Let’s wait until after this election,’” Naftel recounted. “I think everyone will acknowledge that we need to move it from that facility. The question will be, can we find a suitable alternate site or do we need to split that precinct up where there aren’t so many voters assigned to that precinct?

“Horizon Church is smaller (with) only 3,800 registered voters, there but it’s the same issue,” the judge said. “The parking situation’s not great. The facility is not great for that number, and that’s no fault of theirs. They can’t be bigger. We have looked before but we’ll look again for a bigger facility in that area that geographically works for those voters or try to reassign them around to help with that.”

Despite the lines at both of those precincts that yielded frustration, voters were very patient, Naftel said, with no reports of any unrest or anyone being discourteous to poll workers, who he said did a “phenomenal job.”

As for himself, Naftel said he arrived at his office just after 5 a.m. Tuesday and went home around lunchtime on Wednesday.

“I was here for further duration,” he said. “I’m sure that anyone who was near me could tell that I probably wasn’t as fresh as I should have been.”

The judge said the task of tallying absentee ballots was tough a tough one.

“Just because of how labor intensive that is, that took all night,” he said. “Even with the early start, even with the governor saying they could start counting ballots at 7 a.m. instead of 7 p.m., they were working all night upstairs. They were working all night in Bessemer.

“We got those returns kind of at dawn on Wednesday morning,” Naftel continued. “Frankly, that’s pretty good. I have no complaints about either absentee office in terms of how long it took them to process, because they just had so many more than they’ve ever had. Kudos to them for hanging in there, getting that done.”

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