The gloomy weather and the long lines reported at some precincts did not appear to deter voters from casting their ballots Monday as poll workers across Aiken County reported higher-than-normal turnouts.
Even though a handful of precincts had not reported at press time, it was evident that Aiken County residents came out in droves Tuesday to make their voices heard through their vote. A total of 52,161 out of around 101,000 registered voters were counted – that does not include two precincts and absentee ballots. Results from the two precincts not yet reported are not expected to be counted and released until sometime Wednesday, according to an Aiken County Elections official.
Numbers weren't really needed to prove that turnout was good when simply visiting polling places around the county throughout the day. For example, more than 400 people had voted at the New Ellenton Civic Center before 1 p.m., and poll workers couldn't stop smiling.
“We're thrilled,” said Yvonne Nordeen. “We're hoping for 800, really.”
Approximately 50 percent of registered voters in precinct Couchton 56 – over 700 people – had voted at the Aiken Electric Cooperative by 2 p.m. The morning rush was apparently very heavy with an average wait time of 45 minutes.
First-time voter Christopher Barron, 20, said he went online and looked up the campaign platforms in preparation of voting Tuesday.
As for knowing any of the write-in candidates he could vote for, he said, “I'll just decide when I get there (to the machine).”
Poll workers across the county kept busy as they had a steady flow of voters all day. Bonnie Randolph, poll manager at Midland Valley First Church of the Nazarene, said people were lined up at 6 a.m. there as well.
“It's been like this all day long,” Randolph said. “It's a good thing, not a bad thing at all.”
Expectant voters were lined up through the parking lot and down the sidewalk at 6 a.m. Tuesday when poll workers arrived at Montmorenci First Baptist Church. The polls didn't open until 7 a.m.
Over 200 people voted in the first hour. Close to 800 people had voted at the church by 1:30 p.m.
“I consider that a very good day,” said poll worker Dan Redd.
The large turnout was expected with it being a presidential race which many said that's a big reason they came out Tuesday. Long lines that sometimes estimated an hour or two wait didn't stop many from voting. Ernie Wolf was at his polling place at Kalmia Plaza in Aiken early but said there were at least 150 people there waiting. He returned that afternoon with a lounge chair.
“I'm not going to miss this opportunity to express my opinion of who will do a better job in Washington,” said Wolf.
City of Aiken resident Gregory C. Williams headed to vote at St. Angela Hall long before sunrise, and waited briefly before realizing that 5 a.m. may have been a bit early, and he headed back home.
Fearing long lines, he said he wanted to be at the polls and ready to vote by 7 a.m.
“I watched TV and it psyched me out,” he said. “I saw the long lines and didn't want to wait.”
Williams returned more than an hour later. He was in and out by 7:15 a.m.
Some people who were out at the polls didn't come out just because it was a presidential election – they said they come out for every election.
“Well, I always come out because I feel like it's my rightful duty as a citizen,” said Leroy Young who was casting his ballot at Leavelle McCampbell Middle School in Graniteville.
Some had mixed feelings on this election.
“I feel like this is the most important election in history,” said voter Cleve Walter. “There are two different visions for the future of this country. One is more government control, less liberty and higher taxes. That's the Democrats and Barack Obama. I support greater liberty. That's the Republicans and Mitt Romney.”
Leslie Walters said she was on the verge of not voting in the general election.
“Then my husband guilted me into it. There was so much historical significance (last time in 2008). This time it's just blah,” she said.
Voter Robin Curry said regardless of how people feel, everyone needs to vote because each ballot cast counts.
“I think my vote is very important,” she said. “Everyone's vote matters.”
There was a diversity in ages at the polls as several young, first time voters hit the polls. Ben Hepner, who turned 18 in September, voted Tuesday for the first time in his life.
“I voted because most people in most countries don't get to.”
Eric Lambert, 20, was voting in his first presidential election at Town Creek Baptist Church.
“I'm excited,” Lambert said. “It's my first opportunity to vote so I figured I would make the best of it.”
Some parents brought their children to the polls to teach them importance of voting at a young age. Barbie Weathers brought her two young children Grayson and Garrett to Leavelle McCampbell Middle School who watched her vote.
“I wanted to teach them the process of voting and let them know that no matter your age, your voice deserves to be heard,” Weathers said.
Karen Daily contributed to this article.
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