MARIETTA — Anyone heading to Cobb’s main elections office off Whitlock Avenue on Monday to avoid the Election Day rush got a surprise as lines backed up far outside the building, forcing voters to wait two hours to cast their ballots.
Early voting statewide kicked off at 8 a.m. yesterday, and just before noon the line outside the office, which had about 100-plus people standing in it, snaked up and down the sidewalk out front.
Marietta resident Kellie Hair, 70, waited about an hour and 45 minutes in line before casting her ballot but said “it was worth it.”
“That was the longest I’ve ever waited,” she said. “Being the first day, I think it’s probably understandable. Everybody is eager, and it is so exciting to see so many people eager to vote. We need everybody to vote.”
Hair said she always tries to participate in early voting because there is usually not a line.
“Normally it’s in and out quicker than the precinct on voting day,” she said.
Hair said she voted on the Republican ticket and against the amendment that would create a state charter school panel.
“I don’t think we need another commission or another agency at the state level,” she said. “If they want a charter school, I think it should be up to the counties to decide that.”
Annie Gonzales, 30, of Smyrna, faced a long wait because a group of retirement home residents, who were bussed to the polling place a little before 11 a.m., were put in line ahead of her.
“Of course (the elections office) is going to cater to them, and it was a little bit of a wait and a little delayed, but it went really quick,” said the research chemist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gonzales said Monday was the first time she’s voted on the first day of early voting.
“You never know what is going to happen, so while I had the day off, I wanted to get it done, just in case,” she said.
Gonzales voted for President Barack Obama.
“The way that he has moved within the last four years, progressions that he has made with the increase of jobs, so the decrease of unemployment, the capture of Osama Bin Laden … in my view, what they are representing I feel like is what I stand for,” she said.
Ed Martin, 53, and his 22-year-old son Joshua Martin, both of Powder Springs, got to the Whitlock Avenue polling place around 10 a.m. but after standing in line for nearly an hour, they decided to come back another day.
“I usually always early vote because I don’t want to be like these people who wait till the last minute then they complain because there are too many people and they can’t vote,” Ed Martin said. “I didn’t think it was going to be this long though.”
Both said they were planning on voting for candidate Mitt Romney and for the charter school amendment when they do get to vote.
Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections, said 1,371 of people turned out to vote early Monday. As of 5 p.m., 1,226 people had voted, but the 145 people standing in line were allowed to cast their ballots.
Compared to the first day of early voting in the 2008 presidential election, 1,049 people, or 322 fewer people, voted, but she said the wait wasn’t unusual.
The longest wait she heard on Monday was about two hours and 15 minutes.
“The shortest wait was when it was still raining between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.,” Eveler said. “At 9:30 a.m. it was about 45 to 50 minutes (waiting in line), but people were waiting at 7 a.m. for us to open at 8 a.m.”
Eveler also said opening additional polling locations will help relieve the wait at the Cobb Civic Center Oct. 25 and at nine other polling places the week of Oct. 29.
She reminded voters to “be patient, bring a small chair or stool if you like, a water bottle, or a book to pass the time.
“Going by what we saw in 2008, there should be shorter lines on Election Day than during early voting because we’ll have 153 locations open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The only significant wait times on Election Day in 2008 were before 10 a.m.,” she said.
Early voting ballots can be cast at the main office at 736 Whitlock Ave. in Marietta through Nov. 2, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To find polling locations for Election Day, visit the Secretary of State’s My Voter page at mvp.sos.ga.us.