COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The start of early in-person voting at the Franklin County Board of Elections resembled a line of Black Friday holiday shoppers. Before 5 a.m., Sharine Jordan and Chrystal Alexander set up folding chairs and blankets on the first two social distancing marks in front of the Early Vote Center.
“I don’t want to be around the corner waiting in line. I want to be first, get in there and cast my vote,” said Jordan, explaining she wanted to avoid getting stuck in a crowd of voters later in the day.
Alexander said she normally votes early in-person but felt motivated to cast her ballot as early as possible because of the current political climate.
“There is so much going on in this country that is horrible. And I felt like I wanted to get here the first day, I could to vote. I requested the day off because I have the privilege to do so,” she said.
By 7 a.m., a line of hundreds of voters extended past all of the doors of the Board of Elections and around the corner of the attached strip mall.
“This is probably one of the busiest early voting periods that there’s ever been,” said Columbus voter Jesse Jackson.
One group set up a tailgate party in the parking lot with music, dancing and refreshments between 6-8 a.m.
“We’re just trying to bring awareness to the community that the polls are open. We need to come vote, we need to come push the button, you need to drop off your absentee ballots and we need to make this happen,” said Darlene Matthews.
The breast cancer survivor said health care and systemic racism are among her top concerns this election. She’s been encouraging more Black voters to engage with the process.
“We’ve been called a lot of names, but one name we haven’t been called is a voter. And that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.
Cheers erupted when the Early Vote Center opened at 8 a.m. Poll workers limited the number of people allowed inside the building at one time and offered sanitizer, masks and styluses for anyone who wanted some. For the first time, Franklin County cleared out its back warehouse to create room for socially distanced polling machines.
Some voters said they felt reassured about the safety measures at the Board of Elections. Others chose to vote early in-person because of concerns of potential mail delivery issues for absentee by mail voting. Still others said they were just eager to exercise their right to vote.
“If you wait until November, anything could happen in November with the way the world’s going right now. So we don’t want to wait. We want to push the button, we want to be counted. Our votes matter,” said Matthews.
Ohio voters can vote early in-person or absentee by mail through November 2nd. Hours will vary by location and likely change as Election Day approaches.