Just as the sun began to rise on Tuesday morning, lines of eager voters stacked up at polling locations across Hall County. But throughout the day, lines were not long in Hall County and the election process was smooth. At least one poll worker reported things were busier during early voting.
Turnout was not available as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, but 53,382 had voted early. As of Friday, 19,795 absentee ballots had been cast. Absentee ballots were accepted up until 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Election 2020 results
Katie Crumley, a spokeswoman for the county, told The Times around 1 p.m. Tuesday that 5,065 voters had cast ballots between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Crumley said polling locations are typically busier early in the morning as voters head to work, around lunch time and after 5 p.m. She also said she hadn't heard of any technical issues or delays of note. As of 2 p.m., 9,567 people had voted in person, according to Lori Wurtz, Hall County's elections director.
Polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, with all closing on time with the exception of the East Hall Community Center, which closed a few minutes late while voters finished casting their ballots.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, West Hall
Dian Hatfield, poll manager at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, said she and other poll workers couldn’t predict what turnout would be like later in the day, as they didn’t know what percentage of their precinct may have already voted absentee or during early voting. But, she said, the morning had started smoothly.
“We just want to provide the service as fast and timely as we can — efficiently,” Hatfield said.
The poll manager said poll workers would be putting emphasis on ensuring that voters see their votes tabulated. The state’s new voting machines, which debuted in this year’s primary elections, print a sheet of paper that shows the voters' selections, as well as a barcode to be scanned by a tabulation machine.
“We make them watch the counter on the tabulator, and we say, ‘Do not leave until you see that. That way you know you’re vote is counted,” Hatfield said.
“We’re just doing everything we can to keep people happy and combat fake news,” Hatfield said, adding that candidates for office have riled voters through the media. “It’s created whatever discontent that we have.”
Andrew Dennis, who said he lived down the road from the West Hall voting precinct, was one of about 20 who stood in line as poll workers prepared check-in stations inside. Dennis told The Times he’d come early to cast his ballot before heading to work.
The 28-year-old financial analyst said he’d voted in past presidential elections but called this year’s “crazy.”
“They’re always crazy, but I don’t know, I guess it’s more divided (now),” he said. “But I guess that’s just where the country’s at right now. … I think we need to take a step back and see that we’re really not that far apart. It seems to be portrayed that we’re a lot farther apart than we actually are.”
Dennis said both the media and Americans themselves were to blame for the perceived political divide in the country. But, he said, this election could break voter turnout records, adding “that’s great if it does.”
Steven Salter, a 35-year-old contractor, echoed Dennis, saying that claims that the country is more divided now than ever have been overblown. Salter said the country may be slightly more divided than during previous elections, but “hopefully it’ll calm down after the election.”
With a laugh, Salter said, for now, he’ll steer clear of political conversations with friends and family.
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Alley said she’d voted to re-elect President Donald Trump, because she believed him to be the only candidate who can “keep this country strong,” though she added with a laugh, “I wish he’d shut his (Twitter) off.”
She also noted that she’d voted Democrat in the past —specifically, for Jimmy Carter — but the party isn’t what it used to be.
Others who The Times spoke with either declined to share who they voted for or were not allowed because of their proximity to the polling location.
“He’s not a politician, but I think that’s what we need in there,” she said. “Nobody else cuts it — not for me.”
Unlike the others, Alley said she was confident but anxious about the outcome of the election. She said it wasn’t necessarily the election results that worried her but what will happen after those results are confirmed.
“I’m 68 years old, and it’s never been like this,” she said. “I’m afraid of riots and stuff like that. That’s what worries me. It’s sad.”
Fair Street Neighborhood Center, Gainesville
At the Fair Street Neighborhood Center voting precinct, near downtown Gainesville, Poll Manager Shatoria Evans said her location had opened up without a hitch at 7 a.m., but about an hour later ran into minor issues.
Evans also pointed out that, of the 15 poll workers at the Fair Street location next door to Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, 11 were brand-new.
“For some of them, I did encourage them to do some of the early voting, because that’s the best training,” she said. “Some of them did not, so this is their first time being in here.”
Nevertheless, voters who spoke with The Times reported short wait times and a smooth process.
Like Hatfield, Evans also said the poll workers would be encouraging voters to watch their vote tabulated and said it’s difficult to determine what turnout will be like on Election Day.
But, she said, “It’s steady. It’s not as busy as I was thinking, but it’s good.”
Brumfield, a freshman at Georgia State University, called this election season’s politics “touchy.”
“It’s like, whatever side you pick, you labeled, and I don’t really like that, because it just brings us more apart,” she said.
Like Alley, Brumfield said she worries what will happen after the election.
“I don’t think it matters who wins the election. I definitely think there’s going to be a lot of anger from some side,” she said. “You hate to hear about it. Me and my mom have already prepared to stay inside. We don’t want to go outside, just in case, because you never know. It’s sad that we have to take those precautions.”
Brumfield said she’d voted for former Vice President Joe Biden in the presidential race. She said she liked his health care platform and that he is LGBTQ-friendly, a group with which she said she identifies.
“Watching Trump, it’s just a lot of the things he says and (the ways) he acts, I don’t really stand by,” she said, noting that she’s not completely happy with Biden either. Biden, she said, is the lesser of two evils.
Brumfield said her voting process was smooth, and she was in and out in five minutes.
The Venue at Friendship Springs, Braselton
Standing more than 150 feet from The Venue at Friendship Springs polling location in Braselton, Robert Wood waved a large flag, depicting the American flag on one side and a Trump banner on the other.
During elections, campaign signs, flags, discussions and even political T-shirts are not allowed within 150 feet of any polling location.
Wood’s family members stood by his side as he proudly displayed his support of the president. Wood said he hoped to inspire others to vote for the right reasons.
“I just disagree with the Democratic Party,” he said. “A major issue with me is abortion, unlimited abortion. That’s what they stand for, and fossil fuel. They want to eliminate that.”
Wood’s grandson, 7-year-old Evan Murrer, stood beside his grandfather holding another massive Trump flag. Evan said he agreed with Wood’s support of Trump, “because he’s cool.”
Patricia Promise, the polling manager for the Braselton location, said during the first four hours the polls were open at The Venue at Friendship Springs, around 300 people had come through to vote.
“We opened up on time, and we got everybody in real fast,” she said. “We had about 50 people lined up (before the polls opened). We’ve had no issues.”
TaKisha Adger, a polling officer at the Braselton location, said so far, there hasn’t been a wait time for anyone.
“I did early voting, which was a much bigger crowd,” she said.
Oakwood Family YMCA
Bob Belair, polling manager at the Oakwood Family YMCA, said his voting location saw the same easy flow of voters.
“Thirty seconds was the longest wait time,” he said. “This morning there was about 20 people (before the polls opened).”
Charlotte Jackson, who voted with her daughters around 11:30 a.m., said the Oakwood location was the “shortest poll” she had ever seen in her life.
“I expected to be in line for a couple of hours,” she said.
Jackson, who is from The Bahamas, said her mother instilled in her the significance of voting, and she wanted to do the same with her young daughters.
“Especially as a Black person in America, it’s more important for you to vote,” Jackson said. “People died for you to be able to vote in America.”
Dena Longstreet, of Oakwood, said she helped inspire her 23-year-old twin daughters to volunteer as polling officers at the Oakwood Family YMCA. She said Americans have a duty to vote, and she hopes to teach her kids that.
“You can’t tell them how to vote,” Longstreet said. “But we can at least teach them that voting is important, not just for the presidential, but for all elections.”
First Baptist Church of Lula
Before First Baptist Church of Lula opened to voters at 7 a.m., around 30 people were lined up, ready to vote, according to Jasmine Young, the location’s poll manager. At about 12:30 p.m., the crowd had thinned out, with no wait time.
“It seemed that is was about the same at other precincts,” Young said. “We’ve been doing great here. I think having the officer here has been helpful. Everybody has followed the rules.”
Boxes of pizza, donated by the First Baptist Church of Lula, awaited people who finished voting around lunchtime. Craig Broome, associate pastor of the congregation, said his church volunteered its building to help accommodate the crowds of voters. During other elections, he said residents would congregate at Lula City Hall.
“In 2016, we were all wrapped around the building,” he said.
Rhondalyn Coston of Alto, said Tuesday marked her first time serving as a poll officer.
“It’s exciting because you get to talk to different people,” she said. “I can’t wait to vote because I haven’t voted yet.”
Reporters Kelsey Podo and Megan Reed contributed.