PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Long lines seen at a Providence polling place on Election Day are unacceptable, Mayor Angel Taveras said Thursday, and he vowed to work with state election officials to prevent similar problems in future elections.
Taveras said the city is still investigating what caused two- and three-hour waits Tuesday at the Juanita Sanchez school. While the number of voters at the polling place was double 2008’s turnout, Taveras says the city should have been prepared for that.
‘‘The most important thing is that everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity,’’ he said. ‘‘People shouldn’t have to wait several hours to cast a ballot.’’
The mayor visited the school on Election Day and said he saw people leave without voting.
‘‘It broke my heart to see it,’’ Taveras told WPRO-AM Thursday. One woman told him she was afraid she would lose her job because she was waiting so long to vote, he said.
State election officials sent additional workers to the polling place to process voters when the problems became apparent. Robert Kando, executive director of the Board of Elections, said a lack of poll workers, heightened interest in a presidential election year and recent redistricting changes contributed to the problem.
‘‘People aren’t stepping forward to be poll workers,’’ Kando said. ‘‘It’s directly related to the lack of resources.’’
Several other polling places in Providence experienced long lines, too, which election officials said isn’t uncommon in a presidential election year. But the lines at Juanita Sanchez — and two instances of the wrong ballots being sent to polling places — suggest the state should consider changes to the state Board of Elections, according to Secretary of State Ralph Mollis.
While the secretary of state’s office oversees voter registration and certifies election results, it’s up to the Board of Elections to deliver ballots and train poll workers. Board members are appointed by the governor. Still other election duties are carried out by local boards of canvassers.
Mollis said it makes sense to bring the board under the secretary of state’s authority. Mollis is term-limited and cannot run for another term, but he said future secretaries of state might be able to better coordinate elections to prevent the kinds of problems seen Tuesday.
Polling places in West Warwick and South Kingstown received ballots meant for other communities. Election officials also reported some cases of voting machine malfunctions.