MARIETTA — The message was simple. It was urgent. It was: Vote.
The Cobb NAACP was among hundreds of the organization’s chapters in 13 battleground states that hosted a get-out-the-vote event Saturday.
Speaking in the parking lot of the Cobb County Civic Center over the sound of dance music, chapter president Jeriene Bonner-Grimes said people have taken lightly their hard-fought right to vote.
“We know that in the community, there are a lot of lost votes — in the Black community,” she said. This year, the Cobb NAACP hopes, will be different.
If numbers from the first two weeks of early voting hold, that may well be the case.
As of Saturday morning, more than 200,000 county residents voted in-person and absentee, according to the county’s website. In the 2016 general election, about 160,000 county residents voted during the entire three-week early voting period.
Local dance group the Marietta Sliders performed, and attendees could munch on a free hamburger, hot dog or snacks. Volunteer Larry Willis guessed he had made more than 150 burgers and 250 hot dogs by 2 p.m.
Several candidates were at the event, including those for Cobb District Attorney, Democrat Flynn Broady and incumbent Joyette Holmes, a Republican.
“People are paying attention to the presidential election, either because they are enthusiastic or angry … but the local elections are just as important,” Holmes said, echoing another of the day’s themes.
Candidates and the attendees they had come to woo both said this was a year unlike any other with regard to voter interest.
State Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Marietta, said he knew of people who waited hours to cast a ballot.
“In the past, people just said, ‘I’m out of here,’” he said.
County resident Ann Norwood said she had to wait more than an hour when she voted Wednesday.
Others, however, said their experience casting a ballot was quick and easy.
“I didn’t have to wait long at all,” said Shanita Farlow, a member of the Marietta Sliders dance group. Cobb NAACP member Francis “Missie” Cook said she waited maybe 15 minutes to cast her ballot.
Despite hourslong wait times during the first couple of days of the early voting period, times have declined since then. With few exceptions, estimated wait times at Cobb’s 11 early voting centers were below 30 minutes for most of the day, according to the county’s interactive, online map.
Bonner-Grimes said anyone who would like a ride to one of those early voting centers can call the Cobb NAACP at 770-425-5757.
Election day is Nov. 3, and early voting ends Friday.