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November 2, 2010 at 7:35 PM

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UPDATE: Hundreds in line at three King Co. voting sites

Posted by Jonathan Martin

UPDATE 7:35 p.m.: There are three-plus-hour waits at King County Elections voting sites in Bellevue and at Seattle's Union Station. Lines snake out the door at Union Station.

"I figured it would just be a few minutes," Carla Smith of Bellevue, who has been in line since about 4:30 p.m., told the Times' Nicole Tsong. "I'm not leaving. I think everyone's decided the same."

At Union Station, a well-dressed but unidentified woman passed out pizza to the hundreds of people waiting. The wait is so long that people are making friends, according to the Times' Sean Walsh. "Yeah, we've got a date," Ryan Bird joked, gesturing to the woman next to him, Deanna Vesco. They've waited at least an hour.

An elections worker in Bellevue stated the obvious: "This has been quite a surprise," said worker Kortney Kinzer.

Sounds like many of the voters in line were confused by the vote-by-mail system, didn't get ballots because of a recent move, or simply procrastinated.

"I'll probably see how the race is going" before deciding whether to keep waiting after the first ballot dump is posted, said Tenaya Sims, 32, of Seattle, who had waited 2 1/2 hours at Union Station. She's a Patty Murray voter. "if it's still looking like a really close race, I'll probably stick it out."

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King County Elections is reporting huge lines and current wait times of up two hours at voting centers that had been set up to assist the disabled but which have become a last-resort polling site for people claiming to have lost or never received a ballot.

At a voting center at Bellevue City Hall, the wait time is between one and two hours, said Lynne Miller, a spokeswoman for King County Elections. A Seattle Times photograher head from voters complaining of waiting more than three hours earlier in the evening.

Wait times at the other two sites - at Seattle's Union Station and at King County Election headquarters in Tukwila - wait times are 45 minutes to an hour.

Additional staff is being dispatched to Bellevue to reduce the wait time, Miller said. If voters are in line by the 8 p.m. close of voting, they'll be allowed to cast ballots. Voter registration is checked before voters are allowed to vote, according to King County staff.

Although King County went entirely to vote-by-mail, three sites are maintained to help special-needs voters with touch-screen voting machines and other assistance. But the sites have become defacto polling sites for voters who say they've lost or never received a ballot.

Sabra Schneider, another spokeswoman for King County Elections, said voters who lost or don't have a ballot can also call the county's voter hotline - (206)296-VOTE.

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