Presidential Election 2016
WASHINGTON — Holly Gerberich, owner of a Washington advertising agency, jetted into the voting booths early at Malcolm X Elementary School in southeast Washington. Gerberich, founder of Gerberich Growth Strategies, wanted to make sure she cast her vote and wasn’t going to let anything get in the way.
“I came to vote early for convenience,” she said. “I’ll be traveling for work right up until the day before election day and I just don’t feel like dealing with all of that.”
Gerberich is one of thousands of Washington-area residents and millions of voters across the nation who are going to the polls early to cast their ballots for either Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton or Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
About 23 million Americans have already cast their votes in the presidential election, according to election officials. As of Tuesday night, more than 58,000 Washington residents had cast their ballots, with the largest turnout, more than 18,000 voters, at One Judiciary Square polling site in northwest D.C. not far from the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
At the Sherwood Recreation Center, the Ward 6 polling station near H. Street, so far, 3,421 people have voted. On Tuesday, parents dropped off their children at the center before heading to work and then got in line to elect the country’s newest president.
“They’re still coming, but it was mostly busy on Friday,” said poll worker Shawanda Rosette said, mentioning the first day that the polls opened in the neighborhood for early voting.
“A lot of people who work by Judiciary tend to go there. I guess it just has to do with convenience.”
Over in Ward 8 at Malcolm X Elementary, only 2,188 people had made their way to the polls Tuesday.
“I came to vote early to avoid traffic,” Scott Kendrick said. “That’s it. I doubt there’s anything that could happen between now and election day that would make me change my mind.”
Voter registration overall lower than last year’s 483,000 voters, but of those registered this year, early voter turnout has been high in most poll sites, election officials said.
“In certain parts of the city there are better turnouts,” poll worker team captain Adrienne Jackson said. “Statistics say that there are about 1,000 non-African-American people coming to the district per week.”
James Cobb, a poll worker, said he feels that unfortunately the lowest voter turnout is in low-income communities.
“I think lack of education is a big problem with voters,” Cobb said. “I find that more uneducated people have a bigger problem with performing this civic duty.”
Columbia Heights Community Center, with over 6,000 votes cast, is one of the communities with the highest number of early voters, so far.
Columbia Heights Community Center polling coordinator Tony Bouillion said he thought the community’s voting numbers were high because of the makeup
of the neighborhood.
“You can vote citywide,” Bouillion said. There’s a lot of people that pass through Columbia Heights. So, I think that’s why a lot of people come here.
“A lot of people live around here. A lot of people work around here. Also, there’s a lot of retail that draws people because you can vote here for anywhere in the city, so you don’t have to live in this neighborhood.”
For many voters, it’s the convenience of the short lines and getting voting out the way that they decided to vote early. Polling places also offer same day registration, adding to the convenience of going out to vote early.
The District of Columbia Board of Elections has a section on its website called The Queue where voters can check the wait times at each polling location. Most locations don’t have a wait time of more than five minutes, which beats the long lines that can be found on Election Day.
Tamara Robinson, public affairs and voter outreach specialist at the District of Columbia Board of Elections, said that The Queue influences a lot of voters to vote early and choose which time they want to go vote.
“We’re glad that it’s helpful in terms of helping them plan their day and make it more convenient for them,” Robinson said.
Other voters say that early voting is convenient for them because they don’t have the time to vote on Election Day or they won’t be in town.
Lewis Yelin, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, said that he voted early to prepare for an argument.
“I could have taken time off work,” Yelin said. “I work for the federal government, and the government is good about allowing time to vote, but I’m a lawyer and I have an argument on November 9. So, I thought it would be better to vote now than to worry.”
Felicia Howard, a teacher at the University of the District of Columbia, said she wanted to avoid the long lines on Election Day.
“I didn’t have anything to do, so why not?” Howard said.
Several voters said they don’t feel like their vote doesn’t count nor do they have a lot of faith in this election.
“I vote simply because I feel like people died that I can,” Howard said. “I don’t necessarily believe that my vote counts, but I just think of the people who lost their lives so I can have that privilege.”
Kathleen Simone, who works for a government contractor, said she thinks in some cases, voting does not really matter, but it’s still important to do it.
“It doesn’t really matter in D.C,” Simone said. “It’s going to go blue, but it’s important to do if you care about it to do it. I’d say in many places it doesn’t [matter], but you can’t take that chance just in case. If no one doesn’t then you don’t get what you want.”