I went to vote early twice, but didn't follow through either time. Last Tuesday afternoon I went to make a nursing home visit in Fuquay-Varina and decided to circle by the early voting location in Falcon Park. The parking lot was full and a long line of voters spilled out of the building and down the sidewalk. I figured the line on Election Day couldn't be any worse, so I went on to the nursing home without voting.
On Saturday, Terri and I were running a few errands and we drove by the Falcon Park early voting spot and the parking lot was again full and cars were parked on the grass surrounding the parking lot and the line outside the building was even longer We both made the calculation that the wait couldn't possibly be any worse on Election Day and we continued with our errands without voting.
When I left the house this morning, the thermometer registered a temperature of 37 degrees outside. I arrived at my polling place at 7:15 a.m. The parking lot was full and cars lined both sides of the street near the parking lot such that the road was nearly impassable. The line of voters spilled out of the building and wound down the sidewalk.
Last day. I got in line.
The time that elapsed from the moment I claimed my chilly spot at the back of the line until a ballot was placed in my hand was 31 minutes. Because the polling place was so full, voters were given the option of sitting at a table and filling out their ballot rather than waiting for a more confidential voting booth. I chose the table which was fully encircled with other voters soon after I sat down.
After I completed my ballot and stood in a short line to place it in a slot in a machine, I looked at my watch as I reached the outer door. The entire process took 37 minutes. Someone at church on Sunday told me that he and his wife waited one hour and fifteen minutes to vote on Saturday. Judging by the lines that I saw at the times that I stopped by an early voting location, I don't think I was any worse off in waiting until Election Day. I think it likely that I saved at least a few minutes.
Based on my limited exposure to polling places during early voting and on Election Day, it's a good thing that early voting is an option here. If the crowds that I saw at an early voting location are any indication, it would be tough to get all of those people through the process on Election Day alone. Furthermore one would think that the lines on Election Day would be super long rather than just long if it weren't for the fact that a lot of folks have already voted when Election Day arrives.
I am very encouraged by the long voter lines in my repeated experience at polling places in this election season. I don't know how things are elsewhere, but in these parts people appear to be dedicated to exercising their civic duty by casting a vote. I have no doubt that political pundits would say that a heavy turnout is more advantageous to one political party than another. But, leaving political considerations aside, I think it is a good thing that the people are making their voices heard.
"... lift up your voice with strength ... lift it up, do not fear ...," said the prophet (Isa. 40:9, NRSV). If you haven't voted I hope that you will make your voice heard before the day is over. You may have to wait in line a little while. But it is important that our voices be heard.