mcloudy.png
Thursday November 26th, 2020 10:46AM

Life on the line: Early voters wait 'as long as it takes'

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Americans are accustomed to standing in line. They queue up for airport security, the latest iPhone, COVID tests, concerts or food. But the line of voters building before sunrise outside Mallard Creek High School in a distant suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday was different.

It was a living chain of hundreds of people who stepped into place — around the building, down some stairs and past a fleet of idled yellow school buses — determined to be counted in the elemental civic ritual of voting, which seems even more consequential in the bitterly fought 2020 presidential election.

“If you want the United States to remain united, you need to vote,” said Monique Sutton, 52 and a nurse practitioner. “Because if we get any further away from each other, I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to come back.”

The rush to vote early is a phenomenon that has shattered early turnout records across critical Mecklenburg County, battleground North Carolina and the nation, driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has claimed more than 217,000 American lives.

President Donald Trump captured North Carolina by 3 percentage points in 2016 and almost certainly must win the state again to defeat his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won Mecklenburg, the county that's home to Charlotte. But Trump took the neighboring counties by roughly similar margins.

Biden's formula for winning the state relies on robust turnout by Black voters and suburban women. Trump will need to again deliver enormous margins among whites in rural areas.

The pandemic is the dismal overlay of the campaign, but it has inspired record levels of early voting.

By the end of Thursday, North Carolina had accepted 333,466 in-person ballots, up from 166,000 on the first day of in-person voting in 2016. In Mecklenburg County, the number was 35,015, compared with about 14,000 on opening day four years earlier, according to the State Board of Elections.

Shaken by coronavirus and thinking about what comes before and after this year of isolation and blame, every one of more than a dozen line dwellers interviewed during the first six hours of in-person voting said they chose to show up because they worried that mailed-in ballots could get lost.

One after another, they spoke of a sense of urgency driving them to the polls on the first day, even though they can vote early and in-person through Halloween.

“It's just on everyone's radar,” said Audrey Long, who was struck by news coverage of lines in other states, such as Georgia. “This is something that's within our control.”

Their top two issues: the administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's refusal to acknowledge systemic racism or condemn white supremacists.

Masked and inching forward with 6 feet between them, the people in the line voiced a distinct disregard for how long they'd have to wait for the simple act of casting a ballot.

“What I tell my kids is, there’s people that look like us that have died for this right,” said Manny Golfe, 44, a commercial banker who waited almost two hours to vote for Democrat Joe Biden. Like most people in the line, he is Black. “So yeah, it’s that important for me to get out here and wait in line for however long it takes. And if it took all day, I’d stand out there.”

As the sun rose over the deserted sports complex — home of the Mavericks — voters filtered through the nearby Highland Creek community to line up in their cars out front, or take their place in the crowd.

By the time the door had been open for an hour, more than 140 people were willing to risk joining the queue, which stretched between the football stadium and tennis courts toward a remote back parking lot.

The line, some said, provided the unexpected social delight of chitchat with strangers after six months of isolation. But mostly, the atmosphere was one of quiet patience, and a fair bit of reflection.

Retired nurse Cheryl Midkiff, 72, an independent, would not say whether she was voting for Trump or Biden.

But she said the act of casting a ballot on the first day was a civil way of making her statement on issues that have strained relationships, even decades-long friendships, throughout the Trump presidency. That includes one woman she's known since the two were teens.

“I've had to do a lot of soul searching about it,” Midkiff said. “If it were a more casual relationship, that person probably would not be in my circle. And I don't like that about myself.”

Some in line said they were thinking about both the past and the future.

Karen Stirling, 74, a retired accounts payable supervisor for nearby NASCAR, said she regrets not voting in 2016. She didn't like Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and she "thought no one would miss” her vote. Trump won, and the pandemic frightened her.

This time, Stirling said, she set her alarm early Thursday, ate some Cheerios and got in line at 7 a.m. Nearly two hours later, Stirling headed home with her voting “pen” in hand. Inside, she said, each person got one enveloped in sterile plastic to cast a “touchless” ballot in line with pandemic safety.

“I just wanted to make sure that my vote was counted this time,” she said, before casting a vote for Biden.

For many, voting on the first day carried the additional weight, especially given North Carolina's ugly history of gerrymandering and voter suppression.

“It's my civic duty,” said Cynthia Teace, 60, who said she's voted in every election since she was 18. “My grandmother (and) grandfather were from Eastern North Carolina. From childhood on, they would always tell us how important it was to vote. Equal rights for voting first started in North Carolina so it's something that I instill in my children as well.”

Around lunchtime, Arve Carter, 49, and her daughter, Autumn, 23, voted together — in part because Arve's mother insisted on it.

“It's more of a privilege right now,” said Autumn. “I know that my grandmother and great-grandmother really fought for this to be an opportunity for us to be able to do this.”

By then, the line had dwindled to about a dozen people.

About 100 miles southwest, Trump, the world's most famous recently-recovered COVID patient, appeared at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina. Reports of lines of voters dominated the news in North Carolina, after days of similar reports from Georgia and elsewhere.

Trump noticed it was the first day of in-person voting in this critical state. From the stage at Pitt-Greenville Airport, he said he'd heard about “lines through the roof in areas that would more typically vote for us.”

“I think we’re leading everywhere where people are intelligent actually,” he said.

___

Follow Kellman on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump on defense, courting voters in two must-win states
President Donald Trump is fighting to defend his sagging reelection chances in a state Republicans haven’t lost in nearly three decades — and his campaign is confronting new financial strains
7:11PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Life on the line: Early voters wait 'as long as it takes'
Life in the early voting line can be a long crawl, but voters in one Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, precinct say they'll wait as long as it takes to cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election
7:00PM ( 23 minutes ago )
The Latest: Senator hails Biden role in bailing out auto biz
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters is playing up Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as a savior of the U.S. auto industry
6:57PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Justices to weigh Trump census plan to exclude noncitizens
The Supreme Court has agreed to take up President Donald Trump’s policy, blocked by a lower court, to exclude people living in the U.S. illegally from the census count that will be used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives
6:02PM ( 1 hour ago )
For grateful NBC, Savannah Guthrie changes the subject
NBC's Savannah Guthrie did more than just display her journalistic chops during Thursday's town hall event with President Donald Trump
6:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Adviser: Trump tweet about Afghanistan withdrawal was a wish
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Friday doubled down on his assertion that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will shrink to 2,500 early next year, while suggesting that Trump’s vow to bring all forces home by Christmas was more a wish than a reality
5:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Biden praises Democratic leaders in Michigan
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is heaping praise on leading Michigan Democrats as he tries to flip the state back his party’s presidential win column
4:10PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: US report shows patterns of virus deaths shifted
A new U.S. government report shows that patterns of coronavirus deaths shifted over the summer, with rising percentages of the deaths in Hispanic people, and those living in the South and West
3:50PM ( 3 hours ago )
GOP, Dems hope Supreme Court fight bolsters Senate prospects
Senate Democrats and Republicans both think the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation battle will help them in this fall's elections
3:26PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Elections
Major Democratic group pulls out of Colorado Senate race
A major Democratic group is ending its advertising in Colorado's closely watched Senate race
1:59PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP-NORC poll: Voters see the nation as fundamentally divided
The overwhelming majority of American voters believe the nation is deeply divided over its most important values, and many have doubts about the health of the democracy itself
1:26PM ( 5 hours ago )
Impatient Democrats want Biden to do more in Texas
Democrats in Texas are pressing Joe Biden to make a harder run at Texas with less than three weeks until Election Day
12:21PM ( 7 hours ago )
General Election News
Guinea's president, 82, seeks to prolong rule in Sunday vote
Guinean President Alpha Conde, 82, is seeking a third term in office Sunday, insisting his attempt to prolong his rule does not make him a dictator
5:23AM ( 14 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump raises $247.8M in Sept., far behind Biden
President Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans raised $247.8 million in September — better than the month before, but still lagging far behind his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who raised $383 million over the same stretch
11:15PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: Campaign says Trump defeated town hall moderator
A spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s campaign is declaring that the president “defeated” town hall moderator, Savannah Guthrie, and derided the NBC “Today” host as a “surrogate” for Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign
10:10PM ( 21 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
Trump on defense, courting voters in two must-win states
President Donald Trump is fighting to defend his sagging reelection chances in a state Republicans haven’t lost in nearly three decades — and his campaign is confronting new financial strains
7:11PM ( 13 minutes ago )
The Latest: Senator hails Biden role in bailing out auto biz
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters is playing up Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as a savior of the U.S. auto industry
6:57PM ( 26 minutes ago )
French leader decries terrorist beheading of history teacher
For the second time in three weeks, terror struck France, this time with the gruesome beheading of a teacher in a street in a Paris suburb
6:52PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Authorities: Top Mexico official helped smuggle drugs to US
U.S. authorities allege that Mexico’s former defense secretary helped a cartel smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the United States in exchange for bribes
6:51PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Biden email episode illustrates risk to Trump from Giuliani
A New York tabloid’s puzzling account about how it acquired emails purportedly from Joe Biden’s son has raised some red flags
6:50PM ( 34 minutes ago )