Referendum Voting Rocks; Lines Long At Some Polls
The lines, the questions, the frustrations and even some persistent bad information didn't deter a good day at the polls for the long-anticipated city-wide smoking referendum.
"They're rockin' now," Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto said mid-afternoon Tuesday.
People were lined up at the Senior Center and the Shrine Club before the polls opened at 7 p.m., Vitto said.
Voting remained steady, too, at the other four polling places: the Fairgrounds, the Community Health Center, Roosevelt High School, and Restoration Church.
"It does seem like that we're getting quite a turnout in the polling places, as well as what we had in absentee voting," Vitto said. "And the turnout is better than what I have ever seen in Natrona County for a special election."
Voters cast more than 1,100 absentee ballots from Oct. 20 through Nov. 2, she said.
Casper residents are voting whether to approved the 2013 City Council ordinance -- nicknamed Smoking Ban Light -- that allowed smoking in some places such as bars, or return to a 2012 ordinance -- nicknamed Smoking Ban Fully Leaded -- that banned smoking inside all public buildings within city limits.
Yet despite the strong interest in the issue and advance publicity about the referendum, Vitto said she's received calls and angry comments about procedures and who exactly was allowed to vote.
A political action committee in favor of the 2013 ordinance widely distributed a pamphlet that said people could vote at the old courthouse at 200 N. Center St., on Tuesday, she said. That simply wasn't true, and prospective voters were disappointed to learn that, she said.
Some people, Vitto added, were frustrated with the long lines at the six polling places -- two in each of the city's three wards -- instead of the usual nine polling places in each ward during regular elections.
Despite the fact that the smoking ordinances approved by the Casper City Council and applied to only within city limits, some people living elsewhere in Natrona County were under the impression that they could vote.
They, too, were disappointed when they were turned away at the polls, Vitto said.
And one of the strangest complaints came from Jim Delinger, who voted at the Hall of Champions at the Natrona County Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds are on county property.
Delinger said the ordinance was a city ordinance, which should have been voted on only on city property. Otherwise, county residents should have been allowed to vote there, he said.
"As far as I'm concerned, that makes it illegal," Delinger said.
Vitto responded that his comments were ridiculous because the Fairgrounds are in Ward II of the city.
"You can have your polling places anywhere," she said. "The county clerk determines the best locations, and the County Commission approves the locations."
Vitto said she decided to limit the number of polling places -- normally each ward has nine -- to a total of six city-wide in part to save the taxpayers money, and because it would have been difficult to find enough election judges in the strict 60-day deadline imposed from the time the city clerk verified signatures on the petition that prompted the referendum.
The polls close at 7 p.m. today.