Voters started queuing up at 6 a.m. outside the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex in Landover on the first day of early voting in Maryland on Oct. 27, even though polls didn’t open until 10 a.m.
Two hours later, lines were hundreds of people long, as they were in downtown Silver Spring, Baltimore and other polling locations around the state. Long lines continued through the weekend as voters hoping to cast their ballot before Election Day on Nov. 6 committed hours to waiting. Early voting was scheduled to continue in Maryland until Nov. 1 and voters in Washington D.C. were expected to vote until Nov. 5, the day before national Election Day, but bad weather that resulted from Hurricane Sandy closed polls on Oct. 29 and 30.
“I feel good,” said Deborah Simms, 55, of Lanham, who stood in line for three hours at the Sports and Learning Complex with her husband, Leander on Oct. 28. They always vote together. They discussed which candidates and propositions they supported a week before heading to the polls.
“I accomplished what I set out to do,” Deborah Simms said. “It was different, and this was my first time early voting because I thought the lines would be way shorter.”
Deborah Simms said one of the important issues for her was Prop 7, the expansion of gambling in Maryland. “I did it for the jobs and the money that they say will go to schools,” she said.
Leander Simms wanted to make an early statement on behalf of President Barack Obama.
“I just feel like everybody was jumping on the bandwagon for the first election and we need the same people to come back this time to support his policies,” Leander Simms said. “We also need the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus to support him and stand up and say some of the things he is unable to say. At one time, members of the CBC were kind of criticizing him for not doing enough to help Blacks. But many of his policies helped Blacks, like healthcare reform and Pell grants. He needs support.”
The crowds from D.C., where early voting kicked off Oct. 22, to Prince George’s County to Baltimore included very young voters as well as senior citizens.
“It’s a feeling like no other,” said Taivon Taylor, 32, who said it took six hours to vote at the League of Persons with Disabilities Center on East Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore on Oct. 28. “This really shows that the people have their minds made up. If these were issues the people didn’t think needed to be immediately addressed, they wouldn’t be here.”
As they waited in long lines, voters discussed their stands on the propositions, which included questions about gambling, same-sex marriage and the right of immigrants’ children to pay in-state rates for college tuition. For many, though, the presidential race was the priority.
“I think people really want to make sure that Obama is re-elected,” said Barbara Jackson, of District Heights, who waited for more than two hours at the Landover recreation complex. “I wanted to make sure I voted in case I got sick or anything like that.”
Camilla Samuels, of Capital Heights, a secretary at a Prince George’s County school, said she voted early because she didn’t want to spend the entire day waiting in line on Nov. 6. She said she voted against the DREAM Act, Proposition 4, and Prop 6, same-sex marriage. “Marriage is for a man and a woman,” she said.
With Hurricane Sandy darkening skies over polls on Oct. 28, most people who came out decided to endure, though some gave up when they saw the length of the lines.
“I’d say that less than 10 percent of those who came out decided to come back another day as a result of the lines,” said Taylor of Baltimore, who had returned to the League on Oct. 28 after throwing in the towel the day before.
He supported Prop 7 to aid city schools. “If we say no to Question 7, what is our plan?” he asked. “I looked it up and there isn’t one. At least this way if it doesn’t work there will be someone to hold accountable.”
Veronica Welters of Baltimore, who stood under an umbrella with her sister, said she came out to cast her ballot for Obama.
“It’s our right and our privilege and we’re trying to get this done before the hurricane,” she said.