When precinct manager Mildren Irions opened the St. Mark/Heiferhorn polling place at 7 on Tuesday morning, the line of those wanting to vote stretched about 90 minutes long.
About mid-afternoon, 1,150 people had cast ballots. And Irions estimated the wait at less than an hour, although the narrow, winding hallway inside the Whitesville Road church made it appear to be much longer.
“I think the mentality and the people and just everything in general has really changed,” said Irions, who has worked the polls in Columbus since 1992. “People are taking their voting a little more serious than what they used to.”
The long queue didn’t deter Jennifer Cooper, 27, from walking up to the end of the line and waiting patiently after leaving work for the day.
“Controversial issues,” Cooper, 27, responded when asked why this mid-term election meant so much. “We’ll hopefully get this economy back in order to where it should be.”
The same desire to impact the nation and keep anything from derailing the Democrats’ momentum was why Shea Johnson — her green apron still on — took a few minutes off from work as a waitress to cast her vote at the Britt David precinct on Britt David Road.
“It’s very imperative,” said Johnson, 25, also a college student. “This one is just like the election two years ago, the presidential election, because it’s a mid-term election ... We have to keep what we have going.”
Britt David precinct manager Patricia Pearre said about 460 people had voted by about 3 p.m., with there being no glitches in the process.
Olisa Boden, manager of the Carver/Mack precinct at the Columbus Public Library, said about 400 had cast ballots there by early afternoon, compared to fewer than 200 people in previous elections she has volunteered in over 15 years.
In the library foyer outside the polling place, Laverne Fitzpatrick was not there to make her choice of which governor, senator, mayor or council member should run various government entities. After all, she and husband, Bobby, had avoided Tuesday’s crush by taking part in early voting last week. They were about 17,000 Columbus residents to do so.
No, Fitzgerald, who lives off Buena Vista Road area of Columbus, was there to encourage the democratic process. “I came with a friend to make sure she voted,” she said. “(The friend) said, ‘I ain’t going to vote.’ And I said, ‘Yes, you are going to vote.’”
Meanwhile, the Moon/Morningside precinct at North Highland Assembly of God had seen around 1,100 residents by mid-afternoon, said precinct manager Isaac Brown. None of the 14 machines had sat idle since the polling place opened, said Brown, who theorized why lines typically form at the venues.
“They want to read the ballot before they make a selection and that takes time,” said Brown, who has been an election volunteer about three decades. “I call it, they didn’t do their homework. I already looked at the list and knew what I had to do.”
The difference? It took him less than five minutes to cast a ballot Tuesday versus 10 to 15 minutes for the unprepared voter.
Most precinct managers said the biggest rush came early in the morning, while they were bracing for more waves as people left work in the late afternoon heading into the 7 p.m. closing time for the polls.
The key, Irions said, is showing up and getting in line before the 7 o’clock hour.
“They will vote,” she said. “We will not close the precinct until they vote.”