When Sofia Gloria arrived at the Kempsville Treasurer’s Office before 4:15 a.m., there were only a handful of people sitting outside.
By about 5 a.m., there were about 50 people, she estimated. By 9 a.m., when the office opened to voters for the last day of in-person early voting, there were over 400 people waiting.
The line stretched over a third of a mile through Fairfield Shopping Center, wrapping all the way around the shopping center. Some voters arriving close to 9 a.m. found themselves standing among the dumpsters behind an Italian restaurant on the far end of the strip mall.
Next time, some of the voters at the front of the line suggested, the city should bring in food trucks.
“They would make plenty of money,” Gloria said.
Saturday was the last day of in-person early voting in Virginia in a year that has seen record-breaking numbers of people voting before Election Day. Across the state, more than 1.6 million in-person early votes had been cast as of Friday.
In some Hampton Roads cities, the day meant long lines as people cast votes. Virginia Beach’s early voting website estimated wait times of 2.5 hours at the Municipal Center Saturday afternoon. At satellite locations, wait times ranged from a little under an hour and a half at Great Neck Recreation Center to over five hours at the Kempsville location.
Annette Morgan had made it near the front of the line at the Municipal Center around 10 a.m. She first arrived around 7:30 a.m. Her brother was in line in Kempsville and had made similar progress.
Saturday was one of three weekend voting days Virginia Beach offered at the Municipal Center in October. She wanted to vote before election day because she knew she would be working.
“Everyone’s been nice and pleasant,” Morgan said.
Other polling locations in Chesapeake, Hampton, Norfolk and Newport News saw shorter lines. But at Portsmouth City Hall, over 200 people were still in line around 11:30 a.m. City Hall was the only early voting site in the city.
Ja’Lisa Sessoms, who works as a nurse, had nearly made it to the doors of the building. She’d been in line since 9 a.m., when the plaza had been much more crowded.
“I don’t want to stand in the lines (Tuesday),” Sessoms said. “I have to work.”
Daniel Chappell also took advantage of having Saturday off to vote at the Kempsville Treasurer’s Office, getting in line around 4:30 a.m.
It was his third time trying to vote at the office. The previous times, the line had been too long, and the office closed before he ever got to the door. This time, he brought a chair.
Mareques Frederick also tried to vote previously at the treasurer’s office but gave up.
“I just turned my happy self around and went back home,” Frederick said.
This time, he was more prepared to pass the time. His wife sat in the car with their newborn while he held their place in line, talking with Gloria and Chappell.
“Nobody was grumpy,” Gloria said. “They’re the most pleasant people I could be with at 4 a.m. in the morning.”
Matt Jones, 757-247-4729, firstname.lastname@example.org
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