Dozens of voters were forced to make a second trip to polling places in St. Joseph County on Tuesday because of ballot shortages at several locations.
Many precinct inspectors in the county reported running out of ballots in the late afternoon because of the high voter turnout.
Citing concern over ensuring all people had a fair chance to vote, inspectors said they called the county’s Election Board to request more ballots and told voters they could wait or come back later when the supply was replenished.
Sharon Russell, 72, came to her precinct at the Warren Township Fire Station on Crumstown Highway around 2:45 p.m., but was told she had to wait for more ballots to be delivered.
Russell waited anxiously for about 45 minutes.
“I was getting worried. I had to pick up my grandchildren today,” Russell said Tuesday evening. “I thought, ‘If I have to wait longer, I won’t be able to come back.’”
The grandmother was able to cast her vote before the polls closed.
Norm Riley, precinct inspector for the Warren Township polling location, said the precinct ran out of ballots around 2:30 p.m. and received a refill about an hour later. He said about 30 to 40 people were affected but many waited or returned later in the day.
“The turnout was so exceptional,” Riley said, citing the unusually large crowds of voters as the reason the ballots ran out.
He said the precinct serves about 641 registered voters. As of about 4:30 p.m., 579 voters had cast ballots at that location.
The precinct originally received 500 ballots from the county, he said.
A similar series of events occurred at the polling location at the Centre Township Fire Station on Kern Road.
Precinct Inspector Frank Macknick said he called the Election Board around 3 p.m. when the location was down to about 100 ballots. He said he had trouble reaching election officials, and the location ran out of ballots around 4:45 p.m.
An official replenished the location’s of ballots around 5:35 p.m. Macknick said he took down cell phone numbers for about 25 people who he called when ballots arrived.
Just before 6 p.m. at the poll place, voters were calling poll workers to see if they would accept a late ballot as they rushed to make the looming deadline.
“There are a lot of unhappy people,” Macknick said, voicing his own frustration that he had to delay some voters from casting their ballots.
In Granger, Laurie Miller was mad about the wait for ballots.
“It's ridiculous,” she said, after finally getting the opportunity to cast her ballot at about 5:50 p.m. Tuesday. “I'm upset. This is ridiculous. They ran out of ballots.”Miller was perturbed because though she was at her polling place, Calvary Chapel on Fir Road in Granger, about an hour before the polls were to close at 6 p.m., there were no ballots for her and some 25 others waiting to vote.