First-day early voters endure two hours in line
The early voting season started out with a bang on Oct. 18.
Hundreds of voters converged upon the Forsyth County Government Center, braving long lines for the privilege of being among the first in the county to cast their votes in the 2012 General Election.
Forsyth County residents could play a more pivotal role than ever in the upcoming election, according to the Associated Press, which reported this week that Forsyth is one of 106 swing-voting communities in battleground states that voted for then-President George W. Bush in 2004 but sided with President Barack Obama in 2008. According to the AP, these counties could play an integral role in whether President Obama is reelected or replaced with Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. Thirteen of North Carolina’s 100 counties made the list. In addition to Forsyth, Bladen, Buncombe, Caswell, Cumberland, Granville, Hyde, Jackson, Martin, Pitt, Wake, Watauga and Wilson were also listed.
Darryl Hunt has already spoken with his vote. He spent more than two hours Thursday in line at the
Government Center, which was the only site open last week for early voting.
“I wanted to make sure my vote got in and counted,” Hunt, the founder of the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, said of his motivation to vote early. Hunt had particular interest in the judicial races, particularly the two contested races for local District Court judges. Hunt will always be connected to the legal system. He spent nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and as a result of that, he says he knows firsthand the importance of getting the right people on the bench.
“The judges races are really important because they dictate justice in our community and they have the power to correct some of the problems in our criminal justice system,” he explained. “We need fair and open minded judges who are willing to do justice.”
For Hunt, the right candidates were clear in the District Court races, though he respectfully declined to reveal his decisions.
“I keep abreast of what’s going on in the courts,” he stated. “…Fairness is what we look for, so the choices are pretty easy when you look at the record.”
Lillie Bacote was also a first day early voter. She said she voted because she wants to ensure a promising future for her 13 grandchildren. Bacote, a longtime Walmart employee, said she was pleasantly surprised by the largely African American crowd she encountered at the Government Center Thursday.
“I was so excited that so many people had really taken this voting thing seriously instead of just sitting at home, that they felt like they were part of this process and wanted to speak,” the mother of four remarked. “I work third shift and I was off, and there wasn’t anything more important than getting out and making sure my vote counts.”
Maceo Thomas had planned to vote Thursday, but he wasn’t able to stick it out in the long line. He was adamant that he would return to the Government Center the next day to cast his ballot. Although President Barack Obama has taken heat for the nation’s stubbornly-high unemployment rate, Thomas, who lost his job as a fast food worker several months ago, said he remains an ardent Obama supporter.
“I want Barack to win again,” said the father of two. “He just gives me a whole lot of hope about like dreams coming true. He gives me hope as far as being a black man in America.”
Thomas said he missed his chance to vote in the historic 2008 election because he believed at the time that ex-offenders were not eligible to vote. Now that he has learned that North Carolina is a state where ex-offenders can earn back their citizenship rights, Thomas said there’s no way he’s going to miss the chance to make his vote count this time around.
“I ain’t gonna give up,” he declared. “…I want to vote this year.”
Gail Robinson and her husband, Warren, cast their votes in support of the president together on Thursday.
“It seems like a tight race, and I wanted to make sure I do my part,” she said. “My whole family votes (for) Democrats.”
Robinson, a manager at Bojangles, said she often encourages her employees to make their voices heard at the voting booth. She said she felt honored to have a role in the effort to re-elect the president, even if it meant spending hours waiting in line.
“He actually cares about the American people,” she said of President Obama. “I really believe that because he’s been through a lot, and most times, people who have been through a lot, they can feel your pain. I think he’s done a good job. He’s had some setbacks, but it’s not because he hasn’t tried.”
As of Tuesday, 11,630 Forsyth County residents had cast their votes during the Early Voting season, according to the Forsyth County Board of Elections. The Mazie Woodruff Center and 14th Street Recreation Center satellite locations, both of which opened Tuesday, attracted 871 and 747 voters, respectively, on their first day of operation.