Waiting in line on Election Day

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 4th. 

Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

More than 97 million Americans cast their vote early this year, either by mail or in person—that’s nearly two thirds the total ballots cast in 2016. Yesterday, millions more went to the polls to “pull the lever” for their preferred candidates. Voter turnout was very high.

EICHER: Three WORLD reporters stopped by their local polling places to see how things went. 

We begin with Correspondent Bonnie Pritchett, in Houston, Texas.

ELECTION JUDGE: The way you have it set up here is much, much better…

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: Before the polls opened on election day, more than half of registered Texans had cast their ballots. Ryan Rowley, election judge for a southeast Harris County polling site, said presidential elections typically draw about 1,000 voters to this location on election day.

RYAN ROWLEY: I’m expecting at least double that. There’s a lot of voters out here who only vote on election day.

Blanca Falcon tried voting absentee but missed the posting deadline. So, with her completed ballot in her lap, she rolled her wheelchair into the lengthening queue. At 66, Falcon said voting is worth the effort.

BLANCA FALCON: I try to do my best. If I want to have a voice there’s no other way to do it but voting…

An hour before the polls opened, Genobre Russell is in line–second behind a 24-year-old college student who had an hour drive ahead of her. Seated in a lawn chair, the African-American in her 70’s wished citizens took voting more seriously.

She said high voter turnout should be the norm.

GENOBRE RUSSELL: Yes! This should have been a long time ago. You know, you should raise your children up to vote… Just do what you’re supposed to do.

Pablo Hernandez would probably agree. From the parking lot he saw the 40-plus people in line and turned to go to a different polling location—or the iHop—and return here later. The 87-year-old Cuban-born American is deeply concerned about the ideology reflected on the ballot.

PABLO HERNANDEZ: We are really going through some really hard times. My concern is the, you know, is everything we hear from the Democrats – and I’m talking at a very, very high level, the highest levels – really, is Socialism. And that would be terrible for this country.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett in Houston, Texas.

REICHARD: Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson stopped by a polling place in Centerpoint, Mississippi. 

WIGLEY: See that stump on that hill over yonder? I’ve done measured five times, and it’s 149 feet…

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Woody Wigley has worked the polls at Centerpoint for 25 years. He’s here at 6:30 in the morning. As a school bus passes by, Wigley walks through the gravel parking lot. He’s spotted three political signs within the 150-foot regulation.

WIGLEY: So they got to be 150 feet out…

Centerpoint is a rural precinct in a state that’s voted for Republican presidents since 1976. But this county, Copiah, has a mind of its own. Hillary Clinton took it in 2016.

Mississippi’s ballot includes votes on marijuana, a new flag, and a state senator. But the line of voters stretching through the gravel parking lot are focused on presidential issues.

HENDERSON: What do you see as the main problem?

CASEY: Not giving the immigrants so much…

PASTOR: Don’t allow people to mistreat nobody, no matter what race they are…

BALIFF: The coronavirus, you know…

LAWLER: I don’t want socialism…

BROTHER: Well, especially the healthcare…

SISTER: Want to make sure veterans get what they’re supposed to…

SMITH: Laws that are being changed for abortion…

Beth Schmitz was in line by 7 o’clock. She’s concerned about losing freedoms.

SCHMITZ: I love my freedom of religion. I’m born and raised Catholic. So I’m, I’m passionate about religion. Um, Second Amendment. And I’m afraid all of that will go away with the other administration.

Pastor Herbert Gustavis sees his vote as a way to address problems that continue to surface. 

PASTOR: Sometimes hate comes for a reason. We can do a better job and see how things are, and that’s what makes a change.

Kaylon Watson said she’s concerned about Christian issues like sanctity of life and religious liberty. But she let everyone in line know her trust is in God, not elections. 

WATSON: He’s the same yesterday as He is today and going to be tomorrow. Put it in God’s hands and let Him handle it.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Centerpoint, Mississippi.

EICHER: And finally this morning, we head to Bureau County, Illinois, to meet the man who makes sure everything runs well on election day for voters in North Central Illinois. Here’s Paul Butler. 

PAUL BUTLER, CORRESPONDENT: It’s been seven and a half hours since Illinois polls opened. There’s a welcome calm at the Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton, Illinois. 

EGGERS: I am Matt Eggers. I’m Bureau County Clerk and Recorder. 

Matt Eggers smiles as he stands behind a plastic shield and chats with his staff. They’ve been preparing for this day for months. Training election judges, staffing early voting stations, mailing out ballots and for five weeks now, counting postmarked votes.

EGGERS: They’re opening up the envelopes, verifying the signatures. And if everything matches they put the tabulator and the ballot gets counted.

Many early voters were concerned about COVID-19. There are at least a handful of people in Bureau County who now wish they’d been more concerned for they unexpectedly couldn’t vote this time around. That’s due to quarantine protocols as they were recently exposed to, or tested positive for, the illness. 

EGGERS: I called the State Board on it to see what they would do, and unfortunately the State Board of Elections just told me there’s nothing we can really do without putting other people in danger.  

About 30 percent of all registered voters in Bureau County did vote early. Even so, in person turnout is surpassing last presidential election numbers by a noticeable margin. Eggers expects more than 80 percent engagement by the time it’s all said and done. He hasn’t seen that kind of interest since the 1990s. 

EGGERS: People are just wanting to make their voices heard and want to make sure that their vote counts. 

When asked if he waited to vote till today. He laughs…

EGGERS: I’ve already voted. I voted a couple weeks ago…

He knew he’d be busy helping others vote on Election Day.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Paul Butler in Princeton, Illinois.

(AP Photo/Steve Helber) Voters cast their ballots under a giant mural at Robious Elementary school in Midlothian, Va., Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.