Thousands of Ohioans cast ballots on the final day of weekend early voting in Ohio – some standing in line for hours. That includes many at the early voting center in the state capital.
"We made it!”
After more than two hours in line, voters audibly celebrated arriving at the entrance to the early vote center at the Franklin County Board of Elections, in a former department store in a strip shopping center in northern Columbus. The wind was blowing, and a few flurries were in the air.
The line behind them went all the way to the end of the strip center, then turned down the side of the last building. The line continued back behind the storefronts to the back entrances, and there it snaked back and forth, finally to an employee holding a red flag that marked the end of the line.
Wearing a hoodie and sunglasses, Rebecca Sims was working her way through that line, and she was determined.
“I think it's going to be historical and I would vote in any election. So this isn't any different for me. I've been voting since I was 18 and standing in line for two and a half hours, as I understand, as long as it takes for me to meet with," Sims said.
A few hundred feet behind her was Michael Mack, wearing a Howard University Bison sweatshirt.
“It’s about your voice – your vote being your voice. Back in the day, a lot of people didn't have the opportunity to vote. So it's like, why not vote? If you're registered to vote, why not do it?" Mack said. "And it's amazing to see everybody out here, you know, all backgrounds, ethnicities. It's just, it's amazing. It's positive vibes."
Michael and Kelly Hilton were huddled under a blanket as they waited in line.
“To make sure our candidate is elected, do our best part, do our best," Michael Hilton said.
Volunteers from community groups ran up and down the line, handing out water and snacks. As the line approached the side of the building leading toward the front, there were even slices of pizza.
Adam Yates stood in line with a friend.
“People are really adamant about trying to get their opinion out there, this time on the candidates who are willing to do that. Yeah, people want to have their voices heard and even in this craziness, they're going to do it," Yates said.
There were some people in line in shorts who may have expected a shorter wait or warmer temperatures. But Sydney Walton was dressed for the weather, in a black and white coat and a winter hat.
“I think everybody should be voting in a way that speaks for not just their own interests, but others. I'm here for a lot of people who have a lot less than I have, and I just want to make sure that I can help them in any way I can," Walton said.
Hernando Posada was wearing a Steelers cap but missed part of their win to come to vote.
"I think this is going to be one of the closest elections in history, considering the last presidential election was as close as it was. I think there's only just as close. So that's why it's important to be here," Posada said.
Sherri Benedict’s face was almost completely covered by the hood of her sweatshirt as she tried to keep out the cold during her wait to vote.
“It's very important to me," Benedict said. "I think there's a lot of at stake. And it's important that, you know, each one of us get out here and vote because we do have rights. We do have freedoms, we do have liberties. And that's what we're fighting for.”
A few people in front of her was Marilyn Razler, who waited to vote with her husband Ed.
"It's pivotal. And it's a profound election, more so than we ever had before and I'm 74 years old" Razler said. "We've been in many elections. And I'll stand out here till midnight if I have to.”
Carl Aveni was among the candidates who were greeting voters as they came around the front of the building, telling the crowd that there were only ten minutes left in their long waits. He was there along with people handing out sample ballots for both parties. One Democratic distributor had a sign warning that some Republicans were giving out blue slate cards, but with the names of GOP candidates.
And finally at the far end was Jaquella Morris, who got in line at 1:16pm. She came out of the early vote center at 3:48pm.
“I feel like my voice, my voice counts and it matters. So it's very important. So I try to set up for my kids as well to let them know when they're old enough to vote. Exercise your right because it matters," Morris said.
This was far from the busiest day at the Franklin County early vote center, but 2,965 people voted there in the four hours of the last day of weekend early voting.
Monday at 2pm marks the end of early voting for this election. The hours are the same at the early voting center in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
At least 2.8 million Ohioans have voted early – more than half the total early and election day votes from 2016.