A stooped, white-bearded man rolled his oxygen cart to the sign-in table, but it didn't look promising: at that point, no ballots had been given out for ten or fifteen minutes. The bottleneck appeared to be the single laptop a harried woman was using to verify voters' ID.
Though Whitten had no official role-the city rents the center's basement on election days-she'd been encouraging and accommodating the growing and increasingly restive crowd all morning. And she had no qualms about sharing their heat: she'd already given out the number of the city clerk's office to the hundreds of people waiting, and asked me to call anyone who could help. I'd tried the county clerk's office, got only voicemail, then emailed a photo of a dozen empty booths to John Hinchey at the Observer office and asked him to keep trying.
Almost imperceptibly, things started to move. The short-of-breath voter got a ballot, then, one by one, the rest of the booths filled up.