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Carter County voters not deterred by long lines at polling stations

Michael D. Smith
A line of voters stretches across the parking lot of First Baptist Church Lone Grove on Tuedsay. Police confirmed they were called to a polling place for reports of a disturbance, but responding officers reportedly found nothing wrong.

Even though some Carter County voters waited upwards of two hours to cast their ballots on Tuesday, few problems were reported. Several polling places saw lines stretching out their doors and into parking lots early on Tuesday but voters said lines moved at a steady pace.

Perhaps some of the longest wait times in Carter County were in Lone Grove. At First Baptist Church Lone Grove, some voters waited over two hours to cast ballots. Around 1 p.m., a line of about 100 people snaked through the parking lot as voters jockeyed for parking spots. 

Lone Grove police confirmed officers were called to a polling station for reports of a disturbance shortly after 8 a.m. but responding officers reportedly did not find any problems. Some voters said there was a little frustration but no major issues.

“Everybody tried to make something good of a long situation,” said Chris Young, who waited about two hours to cast his ballot in Lone Grove. He said he votes in every election and had never seen turnout like he saw on Tuesday. 

“Long lines and a lot of people,” he said. “I think it needs to happen everywhere.”

A line of voters snakes between cars parked at First Baptist Church Lone Grove on Tuesday. Many voters waited about two hours to cast a vote.

Beyond voting every two years, David Glass said his travels never showed him the kind of voter turnout he saw in Lone Grove on Tuesday. “Never in my military, around-the-world years have I ever seen this,” he said.

Vanessa Barton cast her first ballot in about 12 years on Tuesday. She also waited about two hours to cast her ballot in Lone Grove but said the line moved at a steady pace. 

“My child was talking about it and everybody was talking about voting in the presidential election,” she said.

Vanessa Barton shows off her "I Voted" sticker in the parking lot of First Baptist Church Lone Grove on Tuesday. She said the process took about two hours.

Less than half of the voters in Lone Grove were wearing masks as they waited in line to vote. “After you get in there, it’s kind of close quarters so you’re trying to social distance. So, I put my mask on once I got in the door so nobody would be worried,” Barton said.

Every voter seen at HFV Wilson Community Center wore a mask on Tuesday afternoon. Those voters were in and out in less than five minutes but a poll worker said that the big rush happened shortly after polls opened at 7 a.m. Bethany Kimberlin said she had cast her ballot early in the day and was spending the afternoon driving people to various polling places across town.

“I’m getting people to vote. I’m giving people rides if they need it,” Kimberlin said from her fourth polling station of the day. “Doesn’t matter which candidate they’re going to choose. If they want to vote, I’ll take them to vote.”

Kimberlin took first-time voter Nikki Hannan to HFV Wilson Community Center to vote on Tuesday. Hannan said the process was easier that she thought it would be but said she still felt anxiety about voting.

A sign at HFV Wilson Community Center directs voters to their polling place. The location was one of the few in the county that required face coverings before entering.

For Laglenda James, voting is a longtime responsibility and she considers herself an active voter. While her wait at HFV Wilson was also short, some of her family members waited up to two hours to take part in early voting last week.

She said she has voted in every election in recent memory and did not consider this election to be much different from previous elections. 

“This is my civic duty. This is what I do,” James said.

Many polling places observed on Tuesday afternoon had short, if any, lines. The polling station at Mary Niblack Road Baptist Church saw a short line, as did Springdale Community Center, which recently replaced Southern Tech as a polling place. 

Voters at Southwest Baptist Church wait in line to cast ballots on Tuesday.

Maranatha Free Will Baptist Church also saw little wait throughout Tuesday morning, while nearby Southwest Baptist Church saw voters waiting about 45 minutes to cast ballots. Other polling places across Ardmore reportedly had wait times of less than an hour through early Tuesday afternoon.