While I filled out my absentee ballot last week, Aaron still had not received his, so on Saturday we decided to go to the county Board of Elections so that he could cast his ballot early.
I’m impressed at how flexible the county is for early voting. Here in Columbus, you can vote any of the seven days of the week, with morning, afternoon and evening hours available. Since early voting has been open for three weeks, we didn’t expect it to be very busy late on a Saturday afternoon.
Here was the parking lot we encountered (sorry for the fuzzy camera phone pics):
And here was what we found at the top of the stairs:
There were hundreds of people in line, with new people steadily streaming in as others walked out after voting. The Democrats were out in the parking lot, politely inquiring if we would like to have a Democrat sample ballot. (It basically shows you who all of the Dems are in the county elections.) Many people accepted the small piece of paper with thanks, while a few said no thank you and continued on, and the volunteers thanked them in return. There were no Republican volunteers there, but I would think everyone would be just as polite if they were there, also.
There’s no way I could say for sure which way people would vote just by looking at them, but based on the number of people who happily accepted Democrat ballots, or those who specifically aimed themselves towards a volunteer, I’d guess that more than 50% were voting Democrat. (And that’s with me being cynical and assuming 30% of the people took one of the handouts just to be polite – in total, I saw roughly 80% of people taking the sample ballots as I looked out the window.)
While I waited for Aaron to wind his way through the line, I watched the people coming in and out. The mood was energetic and in some cases, downright jubilant. A television crew was wandering the waiting area, looking for first time voters to interview. They found young college students, often voting together in packs, who said they understood the importance of this election and want to make sure their voices are heard. The crew also found immigrants of all ages who were voting for the first time, either because they had recently become citizens, or because they felt like they had something to vote for this time.
The crowd was a very diverse mix, with people of all ages and ethnicities there. I saw many families with young children in line, and I saw families assisting their very old relatives. The line was long, but no one seemed to mind that much. 20-somethings high-fived each other as they emerged from the voting area, and I saw one elderly African-American woman walking slowly with a cane towards the stairs with a big smile on her face, telling those with her, “That was worth the wait! Oh yes it was!”
After an hour, Aaron finally emerged and we left. There was still another 15 minutes before early voting closed for the day, and the line had already been cut off, so there were not quite as many people there. I was stunned by the number of people at early voting. While I had hoped that people would take advantage of early voting, I never thought I’d see so many people so interested in the democratic process. And so many young people, too – who says that America’s youth aren’t interested in their government?
It really felt good.