We know that long lines on election day scare voters away. That's one of the reasons why early voting is such a good idea. We probably shouldn't even call it "early voting" vs. "election day voting" -- we should probably just open the polls for two weeks and let people vote when they can. It spreads the crowds out over longer periods, and it also makes it so, if you vote on the first day, for example, and have a problem, you can correct it and come back and vote. It increases turnout, makes the experience better, and leaves fewer people shafted by some kind of problem that's "too late now!" to fix.

The polls opened today in Florida, and Brian and I were among the first to go down to the Art Serve Library in Fort Lauderdale. Our experience was very similar to that featured in a Sun-Sentinel story about early voting:
David Hare thought he'd get a jump on Election Day by taking advantage of early voting this morning. He got on line outside the Art Serve library on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale at 10:30 a.m.

Nearly three hours later, he was still waiting.
We were about 30 minutes behind David, but our experience was the same. When we got there, we didn't realize it would take 4 hours to vote. The way the building is laid out and the way the line ran through it, it was impossible to tell how long the wait really was: I estimated 100 people when we got there. In hindsight it was probably 200 or 250. We'd waited half an hour before a poll worker posted a sign near us that said the wait from the door would be 3 hours. We decided to wait the additional 2.5 hours: I left Brian in line, went home, got ready for work. I came back with my laptop and did my class prep in line. I emailed my students and canceled my early office hours. But that additional 2.5 hours ticked past, and we still hadn't voted. Oh sure, we'd gotten a lot closer, but we weren't in the booth.

Some amazing things: people were choosing to wait. Many people on line had reasons why they needed to vote now. They were going on vacation or leaving town. And some of us (points at Brian whose driver's license gives his wrong address, wrong birthdate) had reason to want to try to vote now, in case of a problem, so there would be a second chance. But a lot of people on that line just wanted to vote and wanted to vote now. A lot of people on that line were just eager to get in there do it. And from the looks of it (and the sounds of it -- after a few hours in line with people, you get to know them a bit) everyone there was voting for Obama. 

Now here's the most important thing: Election Day in the United States is not a holiday. And people have jobs. They have to work. But as the Sun-Sentinel says in the same story:
Lines are expected to be even longer on Nov. 4, when 1 million people are expected to vote in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
As I got closer and closer to the actual voting booth, the clock ticked faster and faster. I reached the point at which, if I stayed, I could no longer make it to my class on time -- what would you do, after waiting close to 4 hours? I called work and emailed my students and let them know I was caught: class was canceled. 

If I had it to do over, I would have planned to vote on a day that I had completely off from teaching (and I would have brought my grading with me, because English teachers don't have days off from work): but I was totally unprepared for the length of time I would be required to wait. Election Day is going to be EVEN MORE CROWDED. But voting is important, especially this year. People, get out there and vote early. The lines will only get longer. You have every reason to do it and not a single reason to wait. This is Florida. If there will ever be a state where a single vote will decide an election, this is the place. Make your voice heard, early! 


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