Friday was the first day for early voting in Virginia, and the massive turnout underscored the desperation pervading the 2020 presidential election. According to a report by The Washington Post, when the polls opened on Friday, they immediately found that lines stretched around the block. Many of those in line told reporters that it was worth it to cast their ballot on the first day possible, even if it took hours, just for the symbolic value.
"I just always went with the flow with whoever the president was, but you can't do that anymore," Stephanie Simper, 38 told The Post. She waited in a long line to cast her first vote ever in a presidential election, revealing openly that she chose former Vice President Joe Biden.
Many Biden voters spoke to reporters in Virginia on Friday, ascribing historical importance to this year's vote. "You've got to vote on the first day and make a statement that we can't put up with this any more than we have to," Ashok Viswanath, 51, said.
Early voting in Virginia will be open from now until Oct. 31 in an effort to space out the polling and allow additional safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Additional locations are reportedly opening in the coming weeks, all as part of a new state law making it easier to cast absentee ballots.
Both Simper and Viswanath voted in Fairfax County, Virginia — a predominately Democratic area in the northern part of the state. The secretary of the Fairfax board of elections, Kate Hanley, told reporters that the process moved slowly on the first day as officials strictly enforced the rules on physical distancing in lines, hoping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"We knew it would be busy but didn't expect it would be quite this busy," she admitted. "Typically, we expect this kind of turnout on the last day of absentee in-person voting. Not on the first day." Hanley noted that Fairfax County will soon open a second room with additional ballot machines.
In the neighboring Loudoun County, several voters told reporters that they had originally planned to vote by mail during the pandemic, but had been convinced not to by President Donald Trump's rhetoric. Whether they believed his conspiracy theories about the election being "rigged" or feared for the decreased funding at the U.S. Postal Service, they opted for in-person voting instead.
"I don't want my vote to be thrown away," Adam Pierre, 57, told reporters. He noted that this was his first time ever voting early.
Virginia's in-person absentee voting will continue through Oct. 31. Maryland will open early voting on Oct. 26, followed by Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27. Coronavirus voting methods vary from state to state.