November 6, 2012
At Centennial Hall in downtown Colorado Springs on Tuesday, it was possible to spot the sought-after and almost mythical being: The truly undecided voter.
Jerri Guinn, a woman with a graying hair, a neat cardigan and a warm smile, stood in line around 5 p.m. with more than 50 other voters who had waited for the final hours of the election to vote. Unlike most in line though, she still had no idea who she was going to vote for.
"I'm undecided," she said with a laugh. She had endured months of door knocks, phone calls and ads, but still was not certain."I've made a decision, I think, but I'm not sure it is the right decision, so I could still change my mind."
She would have plenty of time. The line at the voting center downtown snaked through the lobby and out the door with waits reaching 90 minutes, according to people standing in line.
Centennial Hall was among El Paso County's triage points for voters new to the area or unsure of their polling place. Almost a dozen hands went up when a Gazette reporter asked how many people had tried to vote at another polling place and been turned away.
Many said they had moved recently and not registered at their new address.
Others, dismayed by the negative tone of the campaign, had tried to ignore it, only to change their minds at the last minute.
"I got a ballot in the mail but ripped it up and threw it away. I did not feel like voting," said Paul Protheroe, who was near the front of the line. "Then I really started thinking about the things that mattered to me. Obama did a lot of things that helped me personally, plus I'm cool with what he did with the gay rights thing, so I came to ask for a new ballot."
As they waited, some people complained.
"I've voted here for about 12 years and I've never waited this long," said Robert Wilson, who had just joined the end of the line. "But I'll stay 'till they kick me out, this is important."
All that time gave Guinn a chance to think a bit more about her vote, but she was still ringing her hands as she inched forward in the line.
"I'm a very open-minded person," she said. "I like to listen to all sides. I don't think I'll know what I'm going to do until I actually do it."
At Harrison High School, there was an atmosphere of comaraderies an hour before pole closing.
The only lines were at a makeshift cafe, where free hamburgers and hot dogs were being cooked on a barbecue and handed out by people who said that they were volunteers for "the blue team."
In the free food line, Stephanie Green happily voted for the hot dog, and Joseph Esparza, chose a hamburger.
In keeping with the emerging dinner theme, Esparza said he voted for Obama because "there was too much left on the plate from Bush when he became president. He's only had four years and it will take more time."
At times there were more poll watchers than voters at Harrison High.
As more people got off work, the traffic picked up. But even at that, the longest wait at that time was only 10 minutes.
There were some problems, the poll watchers said. Some voters had the wrong precinct. And there were numerous first time voters, who were dropping off mail in ballots and did not know they had to have copies of their ID included.
But Obama campaign workers had earlier in the day scouted out a copy machine at a hotel only a couple blocks from the voting site and told voters to go there.
Angel Galvez, 27, was surprised there were no lines.
"We have been following the debate and felt (Mitt) Romney didn't give good answers."