NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Early voting kicked off Friday across Louisiana, and from the Smoothie King Center which is home to the New Orleans Pelicans, to New Orleans city hall there were winding long lines of people eager to have their say in the presidential election and other races on the November 3 ballot.
New Orleans city council members and NBA players pushed to have sports arenas used for voting this fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing and voters appreciated having the additional spacious location to cast their ballot.
For Vanessa Whitewolf who recently moved to Louisiana, it was a good experience.
“Oh, it’s so easy. The line is 20 minutes. I came right in, voted and now we’re done. The whole thing took not even a half-hour,” Whitewolf said.
Kimi Derosin agreed.
“Anything to utilize so that we can get everybody out to vote, so it helps with everything,” Derosin said.
Vernon Severin first stopped at city hall which is walking distance to the arena but the lines to vote there were too long.
“Oh, it’s great. First, I was at city hall. I stood and the line was too long. We came here and it’s more convenient here,” Severin said.
At city hall, the wait to cast ballots may have taken longer but that did not dampen voters' resolve to engage in the democratic process.
William Newkirk said getting to vote mattered most.
“No, I’m not deterred by the lines because I know the significance of it. It’s about voting and making our voice be heard,” Newkirk said.
Dr. Sandra Wilson is Registrar of Voters for Orleans Parish where the city of New Orleans sits. She was pleased to see the large turnout of voters.
“They’re energetic about the vote and also they’re coming to vote and they’re being very patient. The lines are moving fairly quickly given the enormity of this election, so yes, people are coming out, every single site people are crowding in to get their vote in,” Wilson said.
In neighboring Jefferson Parish, droves of voters turned out as well. For longtime Jefferson Parish Registrar Dennis DiMarco it was something unprecedented.
“We have never seen since I’ve been here which is over 20 years as many people turning out to early vote on the first day. It’s just, it’s overwhelming and people, unfortunately, are waiting quite a while,” DiMarco said.
He said some voters arrived at the Yenni Government Building before the sun came up.
“I wish we could do more. Because of social distancing, we have fewer voting machines so that further slows down the process,” DiMarco said.
Back at city hall in New Orleans, Wilson said the large turnout was not a surprise.
“We were really expecting this kind of large turnout because it is a high-volume election,” Wilson stated.
And she said her office has received a wealth of absentee or mail-in ballots and more are expected.
“I do want to say to the public that we really have an abundance of ballots coming in and an abundance of requests that we’re completing *butt*so the process is a little slower than normally but they can call even though the lines are very busy,” Wilson said.
Early voting continues through October 27 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily excluding Sundays.
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