Scenes From A Poll: The South End

Owly Images 

Location: Ben Franklin Institute

Time: 6pm

I'm not exactly old – this is just the third presidential election that I've covered. But out of all the municipal races and everything else that I've seen in my short time, the current scene off Berkeley Street – of people waiting to vote at the Ben Franklin Institute – is the worst electoral nightmare that I've ever witnessed. Fingertips are freezing. Friends of poll workers have come in to help, having heard online and by phone that the place is a mess. Most alarmingly – there's a two-plus block line with hundreds of people wrapping around the corner and up Tremont Street, and expanding almost all the way to where Masa is.

As my colleague David Bernstein noted earlier, there's something strange going on in Ward 5 Precinct 1, and we won't likely know what it is for a while. The crowd is a colorful scrum, with everyone from gay couples and students to immigrants, black families, and people with dogs – so it's hard to pitch conspiracy theories (unless you think Scott Brown's behind this, which he isn't). While the rest of city had almost doubled its rate of voting (from 2008) by 3pm, though, this place was actually down; for obvious reasons, it doesn't seem like it's from a lack of voters trying.

Owly Images

And here's the bigger problem – there's no way that all of these people will get to vote by 8pm. At 6pm, they'd still only processed about 1,600 people, or about 35 percent of the people who are registered in that precinct. That's simply inadequate considering the crowds that are still showing up, a scrum that includes a number of elderly, disabled, and pregnant people who are already at the end of their ropes, and in some cases toward the end of the line. When the secretary of state's office looks into the biggest disasters of the day, this is the first spot they should analyze. It's disgraceful.

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