Voters lined up before dawn at some polling places – and some lines swelled to the hundreds, while other sites’ waxed and waned – as Charlotteans turned out Tuesday for a highly contested presidential election and other nationally noteworthy races.
Here’s a look at places from around the county:
▪ At the Charlotte Scottish Rite on Randolph Road, about 25 people were in line by 6:11 a.m.
Gina Jurch got there at 5:30 a.m., and there already was one person ahead of her. “I aimed to get here an hour early,” she said. “I thought it opened at 6, so it worked out right.”
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When the poll opened at 6:30, the line had grown and went up and down a stairway in the foyer, with at least 50 people waiting.
▪ At West Charlotte High School, off Beatties Ford Road, 100 people were in line at 6:30, but the line moved quickly and dropped to 10 an hour later.
Christine Bowser has been precinct chair for 20 years. She said she was worried about the slow turnout. She estimated that about half the 2,500 people registered had voted early.
But Mattie Marshall, Precinct 25 secretary treasurer, had plenty of enthusiasm. Her Carolina Panthers sweatshirt and red turban matched her “North Carolinians for Hillary” sign.
“We know how to keep pounding!” she shouted. “Hillary pride!”
▪ At Winding Springs Elementary in north Charlotte, lines of 100 people and 40-minute waits were steady all morning.
Victoria Stewart, who has lived in the area for 11 years, was surprised.
“I wasn’t expecting the line to be this long. But it’s a good sign,” she said.
Chief Precinct Judge Kimberly Wolford wasn’t surprised. It’s a big precinct, with 5,000 to 6,000 registered voters. She had a thick stack of absentee ballots Tuesday, and said early voting had been heavy as well.
“They’ve been lining up since 5:30 this morning,” Wolford said.
▪ At Eastover Elementary, the precinct of Charlotte leaders including former mayor Richard Vinroot, former Observer publisher Rolfe Neill and former Bank of America Chairman Hugh McColl, fewer than 250 of the precinct’s registered voters had not yet voted by 5 p.m. A handful of voters trickled in and out during the dinner hour – no lines to wait in.
First-time voter Kelsey Manzano, 18, a senior at Charlotte Country Day, came to the polls with her mother, Kris Hinson.
Manzano said she picked Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest, although she would have chosen a third party candidate “if I thought he had a shot at winning.”
“When I was 14 and I watched (mom) vote, I did not think it was going to be like this,” Manzano said.
“It’s a circus,” Hinson interjected, referring to the political climate surrounding presidential politics.
▪ At Forest Hill Church on Park Road, there was no line at 5:45 p.m., and no people inside, other than volunteers.
▪ Earlier in the day, at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Matthews, precinct judge Jan Tiffany said voters were waiting at 5:45 a.m. when election officials arrived; soon the line stretched out the door into the bottom tier of the parking lot. Michael Rainey, chief election judge at St. John’s Baptist Church in central Charlotte, said the line snaked from the entrance door down a hall for perhaps a hundred feet.
But by midday, neither those polling places nor East Stonewall AME Zion Church in West Charlotte had any lines.
The folks who cast ballots were reflective as they came out of the polling spots.
Nathaniel Moore, who voted at Stonewall, said one of the most important issues was “getting the economy going. Even though I’m retired, you’ve got to think about the generations after you.” He was thinking locally as well as nationally, endorsing the city bond referendum in hopes that they’d lead to civic improvements: “The streets where I live need attention.”
Kathryn Brownlee, a recent transfer from South Carolina, came to St. John’s with her 6-month-old son, James. (Both wore red, white and blue.) “People here seem more thoughtful about choices than they did where I came from. It’s a polarizing election, not just nationally but statewide, and there’s more discussion about the issues.”
At Cross and Crown, 26-year-old Jane Weller came out with a button that showed her loyalty to Christian Cano, who ran against Robert Pittenger for the House of Representatives. Though she supported Bernie Sanders in the primary, she switched to Hillary Clinton because she found Donald Trump frightening. “I’ve got a degree in psychology and work in the behavioral sciences,” she said. “This whole campaign has seemed like a (psychological) experiment.”
Dale Hargett, a small business owner who has been voting since the early 1970s, waited until election day to sift all the information he could get. “I’ve never seen an election that was so much about the personalities and what was wrong with them,” he said. “So little was said about the issues.
“No matter who wins, the country will still be split 51-49. I’m not a huge John F. Kennedy guy, but he said something wise: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’ We need that thinking more than ever now.”
Observer staff writers Cristina Bolling and Theoden Janes contributed.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are voting today:
▪ Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Everyone who is in line by 7:30 will be able to vote – just make sure to not leave the line. Lines are typically busiest during the morning and evening hours, so consider voting midday.
▪ If you’re unsure where to vote, visit meckboe.org and click on “Where I Vote” under “Voter Information.”
▪ You do not need an ID to vote. On July 29, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the state law that required a photo ID to vote.
▪ You cannot register to vote at the polls. If you didn’t vote early or register before the October deadline, you’re unfortunately out of luck.
▪ Voter intimidation is a state and federal crime. Let the Observer know if you run into any trouble at your polling place today.