Shorter than Expected: Voting on Election Day in 2020

A child waits while his mother votes early in the morning at Living Hope Baptist Church on Nov. 3, 2020.

Lily Burris

When I woke up this morning, I was nervous.

True to form, I’d put off voting for as long as I could. I didn’t go to early voting and I didn’t get a mail-in ballot. I waited till Nov. 3 to go vote in my first presidential election.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mail-in ballots or early voting. I just don’t like parking downtown or filling out paperwork. My solution to this was to just wait till Election Day to get up and go vote, just like the elections I’ve voted in the past two years.

This morning though, I was nervous that I’d get to Warren Central High School and there would be a line out of the door. I was nervous that I would stand in line for so long I wouldn’t get to eat until dinner. I packed a book and headphones and cookies, the only food in my apartment already in a baggie, into my purse just to be sure.

I was even more nervous because my things-to-do-before-I-go-vote list was taking longer than I had thought they would.

I didn’t leave my apartment until nearly 10:30 a.m. this morning.

On my drive over, I was convinced there would be a line. Then I would get through that line and for some reason I would be at the wrong place, even though you can vote at any polling station in the county.

In case you can’t guess where this is going, I was wrong.

When I pulled up to Warren Central, I was expecting the parking lot to be packed like it was for the high school marching band competitions I attended there.

There weren’t nearly as many cars as I had expected, and there was no line of people out the door.

On my way into the building, there were two women directing people to the right set of doors. By people, I mean myself and the other person walking up at the same time. One of them reminded me to have my ID and that if I already had it out then things would go faster.

Just inside the doors were three more people there to direct voters. One of them also reminded me to get my ID out. At this point, I had pulled my wallet out of my purse and was holding it in my hand, fidgeting with the zipper.

As I walked up to the gymnasium, I was expecting the usual two-person sign in table with maybe four polling booths, at most double that.

There were eight sign-in tables with a row of four or five spaced out voting booths beside them.

The man standing at the entrance of the gymnasium directed me to table eight at the far end of the gym.

As I walked past the seven other sign-in tables, I pulled out my driver’s license to have it at the ready. I walked up to the table and handed it to the lady working the table, who scanned it and then told the woman next to her what ballot I need.

I signed the tablet they were using instead of the big binder of signatures I remembered from the past. Every time I sign anything electronic, I worry that my signature will be flagged somehow for being fake. There’s something about signing on a tablet or computer that makes my signature look different to me.

It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been hearing about mail-in ballot signatures needing to match registered signatures, and there’s no way my signature from high school is that similar to my one now.

I was handed my ballot and told to take one of the empty booths.

Then, there I was, filling out the words most high-pressure scantron.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACT bubble sheet was terrifying. I’ve taken multiple choice tests that have made me sweat. Nothing in my memory compares to filling out this year’s ballot.

Weirdly enough, I think the local elections were the hardest. There’s 10 Bowling Green City Commission candidates this year and trying to remember who stands for what to fill those four seats felt like a lot in the moment.

I realize there are more pressing elections than the Bowling Green City Commission, but those races just had a lot less candidates.

Once I filled out my ballot, front and back, I went back over all again, using the pen to make sure that every little bit of those boxes were covered in black ink. Then I was done.

I walked up the aisle to the machine that eats ballots, or at least that’s what I remember thinking it did as a kid. Now as an adult, I’m not really sure what the correct description is.

I dropped my pen in the box and grabbed one of the little oval “I Voted” stickers. I got some hand sanitizer from the bottle and headed out the door.

I was in and out of voting in less than 20 minutes probably, back at my car just before 11 a.m. The voting that I had prepared for by putting a book, headphones and cookies in my purse took about as long as I had to eat lunch in high school.

So, if you’re like me and you’ve put off voting till today, please go out and vote.

Assignment Editor Lily Burris can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lily_burris.