ELKTON — Grey skies and some light rain did not stop Cecil County voters from coming out in droves Monday and Tuesday for the first days of early voting at the county administration building. By press time Tuesday, the county had received more than 9,000 mail-in ballots and processed almost 3,000 ballots from in-person early voters.
"I vote early every time but I've never run into this before," said Jack Davidson. "I'm shocked at the number of people that showed up on the first day."
So were officials of the Cecil County Board of Elections.
"By 8:30 we had checked in 183 people," said Ruie Lavoie, director. "We are moving as fast as we can."
Lavoie said on the first day of nine straight days of voting she had an inkling the early option was going to be popular.
"On Saturday I was out retrieving ballots from the ballot boxes and a gentleman asked me what time the early voting started," she said. "I told him 7 a.m. and he said, "Then I think I'll get there around 5."
When she arrived at 5 a.m. Monday Lavoie said there were already 50 voters waiting. By the end of the day, they processed 1,667 ballots.
On Tuesday, the second day of early voting, doors opened to 189 voters already lined up. At about 3:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Lavoie reported 1,230 votes already cast, predicting that they would exceed Monday's total. Of those 1,230, 671 were from registered Republican voters and 366 were from registered Democrats, with 180 unaffiliated and 13 from other party affiliations.
"People are being very patient," Brenda Ross, elections official, added. Ross was walking the line that wrapped around the county building on Chesapeake Boulevard to see if there were any problems. She was prepared to offer place markers for voters who came unprepared to stand in the long line. Among those was Ashley Aycoth.
"I'm due next week," the Elkton woman said of her pregnant status. Standing by the rear entrance of the building, Aycoth said she wasn't even sure where the line began.
Beverly Wright wasn't sure if her knees could take the wait on the sidewalk.
"But I'm glad to see everyone turning out to vote," Wright, from Elkton, said. "It's our duty."
Joe and Jennifer Pardue were amazed at the line; especially Joe. He voted early in 2016.
"I got in quickly and I was in and out," he said, comparing it to a trip to the grocery store. "Today I get here and come around the corner and wow. It's good to see everyone voting. It's important."
Hannah Hickey waited as well. Like Aycoth she won't be available to vote in person next week.
"We'll be on vacation. Today was the only day we could vote," Hickey, from North East, said.
As she waited her turn, Cynthia Taylor said her mind was made up for whom she would be voting. Since she would be working Nov. 3 she had to cast her ballot early.
"I have voted in every election," Taylor said.
It was the same story for Jennifer and Rick Overkamp who drove from Conowingo to vote early.
"We don't get the day off to vote," Jennifer said. "Early voting is great."
Rick said he'd never seen lines like this in the past, but agreed it was good to see the turnout.
"And it's got to be done," he added.
Jack Davidson said he always takes advantage of the early voting option but, like others, was shocked at the long line.
"I wonder if anyone is going to vote Nov. 3?" Davidson, from North East, said.
One thing that does impact the wait time, according to Lavoie, is when voters who requested mail-in ballots show up at the polls instead.
"We have to verify that they did not turn in their vote by mail," she said. "If they did both, their ballot is negated and we have to turn them in to the state because that's against the law."
Those voters who requested a mail-in ballot but then show up in person receive provisional ballots, which are not processed until Lavoie's team can verify that they have not already submitted a ballot by mail.
Just like the traditional polling, Lavoie said anyone in line for the early balloting at 8 p.m. each night will be allowed to remain in the line until their vote is cast.
The same is true on Election Day, when voters can cast ballots from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the administration building or at Bohemia Manor High School, Elkton High School, North East High School, Perryville High School or Rising Sun High School. All six locations — five high schools and the administration building — also have secure drop-boxes where voters can drive up and drop mail-in ballots.