From my office window, I can see the line of people waiting to vote in Milwaukee. When I voted, last Thursday, I stood in line for over an hour and a half. At the time, the line reached the door, but did not go out. On Friday, I looked out my window at work in the morning to see a line 3 or 4 people wide, out the door, around the corner, and up the hill. I immediately went to point it out to my co-workers. I checked all day, glancing out the window each time I found myself standing. The line never got shorter.
One person I work with incredulously asked: “Why are they standing in that line???”
Surely the lines might be smaller when the whole city it voting at 206 sites as opposed to 1. Everyone admits that there will be lines at polling stations on Tuesday as well. But, still. Why stand in line? Why vote early if you don’t have to.
I have to possible (and I believe both plausible answer to this question. The first is that a large number of people are going to be working on poll day. As my mother said to me, half the city is getting ready to watch the other half vote. Outside of election day poll workers (me) and election commission staff, this election promises to fill polling sites with observers. Observers are people from the public, often supporting one candidate or another, who go to polling stations and make sure that laws are followed*. They can challenge voters (by speaking to the polling site chief inspector) and they, often, will be calling in updates and numbers to their offices. While their is a limit on how many people each group can send, it is assumed that multiple groups will be sending observers–especially in contested areas and states.
The second reason I believe their are such long lines is simple: HOPE. People are energized by this election. They are excited about politics, many for the first time ever. People are enthusiastic and want to make sure their vote counts– even if it means standing for up to 6 hours in line. Hope, the idea that change is coming and that their vote can bring change, motivates people to stand in line. It has them smiling at other voters who they believe are voting the same way. Hope is getting out new voters, young voters, minority voters, voters who don’t feel they have been represented in the past. Hope is allowing a nation to believe. Hope is creating epic long lines in early voting and will create historic voter turnout tomorrow.
* The information here is how observers work in WI. Each state has their own regulations.