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Short lines, ‘good energy’ at Durham polling places on Election Day

<p>A voter checks in at the 5th precinct voting site in Durham at the W.I. Patterson Community Center.</p>

A voter checks in at the 5th precinct voting site in Durham at the W.I. Patterson Community Center.

Iffat Allam had been greeting voters outside of the W.I. Patterson Recreation Center in Durham since 6:20 a.m. on Tuesday, but nearly 12 hours later, her energy and enthusiasm had yet to fade. 

“I don’t feel tired,” she said. “I’m full of energy.”

Iffat is the mother of Nida Allam, a candidate for Durham County Board of Commissioners. Because there are no Republicans in the race, Allam is set to be the first Muslim American woman elected to public office in North Carolina. 

Iffat was out Tuesday as a volunteer for People’s Alliance, a Durham progressive organization, passing out sample ballots and lists of endorsements to voters.

Durham voters headed to polling places to cast their ballots Nov. 3, marking the end of a long election cycle. As of Sunday, more than 4.5 million people had cast ballots by mail or during in-person early voting in North Carolina, and on Tuesday many Durham polling places saw short lines and uncongested spaces. 

Despite plenty of high-energy volunteers like Iffat, there were few voters to be found at the polling place by Tuesday evening. Allam said that when the precinct opened in the morning, there was a line of approximately 15 voters waiting to cast their ballots, but the lines quickly became nonexistent, with only a handful of voters coming by throughout the rest of the day. She estimated that the precinct, which is the polling location for Duke students living on West Campus, had only seen around 200 voters total, but said that voting had gone smoothly throughout the day. 

One of three poll observers at the W.I. Patterson Recreation Center, Allie Davis, commented on crowd sizes. 

“I wouldn’t say it's been super busy, it was busier earlier, probably before people went to work,” she said.

Voters fill out their ballots at the 5th precinct voting site in Durham. 

One issue this year, especially considering concerns of community spread of COVID-19, has been voters waiting in long lines, but this was not much of a problem at the Center. 

“There was a really small line when the poll opened. Because so many people voted early this year, it is a little bit slower,” Davis said. 

Overall Davis observed “good energy” and said there were no major incidents other than questions about redistricting of precincts. She said that by 11 a.m., about seven voters had cast provisional ballots because they had arrived at the wrong precinct. 

Other voting sites were similarly quiet. The scene at the polling center at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics involved nonexistent lines and an unused curbside voting service for people with disabilities. According to one poll worker, only about 100 people voted between 6:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Durham resident Sallie Wilson, who has “voted here a long time,” said it only took her about five minutes to get in and out of the polling station. She chose NCSSM’s polling location “because I live right down the street and there is never a line,” Wilson said.

At E.K. Powe Elementary School on Ninth Street, only 163 voters had cast their ballots by 7 p.m. on Election Day. With only half an hour left before the polls closed, the parking lot remained empty, and it didn’t seem like there would be any last-minute rush of voters before voting ended at 7:30 p.m. 

The Lakewood Elementary School polling site also had no lines outside the building, said Victor Canales, a volunteer offering surgical masks, chips, oranges, Welch’s fruit snacks and KIND bars to voters as they exited the building.

Empty polling booths at a quite Lakewood Elementary voting site in the 6th precinct. 
Empty polling booths at a quiet Lakewood Elementary voting site in the 6th precinct. 

Canales, who is 30 years old, is a volunteer with Poder NC Action, an organization that seeks to elect candidates that are “pro-Black, pro-Latinx, pro-LGBTQ, and pro-Choice,” according to their website. This was Canales’s fifth stop at Durham County polling sites. 

“I’m a little nervous, because there’s a lot on the line,” he said. 

Canales said he hopes that whoever gets elected supports the undocumented community and BIPOC communities—“the people that are struggling the most right now.” 

Some voters, like Durham resident Alvin Pitts Jr., decided at the last minute to cast a ballot. Pitts—who initially planned on not voting—emerged from the voting center at 6:30 p.m. with a sticker on his shirt and a positive attitude about the process.

Pitts said the reason he did not initially want to vote was that he was not partial to either of the candidates. He said it had been a “struggle” to choose who to vote for because he didn’t feel like he had “a true representative” of himself as an option.

“It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Trump,” Pitts said. “I respect his strategy, but I can name a million reasons why he shouldn’t have gotten the job. But I couldn’t give Joe Biden the job just because he was Barack’s homeboy, since how much did Barack do to directly affect my current situation? I didn’t have anybody to vote for, so this is how I voted for the president: Joe Biden is what, [77]? I won’t wish anything on his health, but if he does become unable to perform his duties, then we see our first female, minority president, and so I voted for her for that.”

Pitts said that he has voted at the same polling location for elections in the past, and because the location is right next to his church and where he plays basketball, it has always been easy for him to vote in Durham. 

“The voting experience itself was easy,” Pitts said. “It was nice that there were no long lines that I had to wait in. I worried about that because it’s late, but I was like, ‘I don’t care if there’s 1000 people in the line, I’m going to [vote].’ And so it was cool to get in and get out in five minutes.”

“The mood here is good,” Pitts said about the polling location. “Voting here was kind of like a CVS visit. You know, you get some mints, a toothbrush, pretty easy stuff. Except I got a goodie bag when I came out [of the building], and they never do that at CVS.”

Chris Kuo

Chris Kuo is a Trinity senior and a staff reporter for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously enterprise editor for Volume 117.

Kathryn Thomas | News Editor

Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Alison Korn

Alison Korn is a Pratt junior and enterprise editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Parker Harris | Editor at Large

Parker Harris is a Trinity senior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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