COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - While politicians frame 2020 as a choice election, for many South Carolinians, turning out to vote was not a choice but an obligation.
Braving a chilly morning with temperatures in the 40s, some voters in Richland and Lexington County waited more than three hours to cast their ballot three days before Election Day.
“If I had to stand out here for several hours, that wouldn’t be a problem If it was cold if it was raining it wouldn’t have mattered,” Richland County voter Kerry Parson said.
While Parsons and other longtime voters were shocked by the lines, first-time voters were surprised by the energy in line Saturday morning.
“This is really cool...no one has left the line even though they’ve seen it, which is amazing to me,” 49-year-old first-time voter Samra Alikhan said.
Alikhan was slightly embarrassed to have never voted before and said one of her friends has been bugging her to cast her ballot this year.
She said she was choking up with excitement and emotion before voting. and said the reason she came out this cycle was, “the state of the country.”
Many voters said if they were going to vote, Saturday was their best chance to cast their ballot without worrying about timing or getting back to work.
“It just gave me the time to be able to do it, not worry, not rush,” Parsons said.
Others in lines included teachers and health care professionals who knew it was now or never because they would be busy on Monday and on Election Day.
For Shannon Griggs and her daughter Savannah Lewter, the polls opening over the weekend gave them a chance to vote as a family.
“I think it’s really important for young people like me to see their parents make a change,” Lewter said. She drove to Columbia from Florence to vote with her Mom.
“We have a divided family, [Savannah] and I vote one way, and the other two vote another way,” Griggs said as she smiled at her daughter. “It’s okay we respect each other’s views, we don’t fight,” she said, but admitted she will be excited for the election to end.
The large turnout shocked and inspired local leaders like Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
“I expected we would have significant turnout, I don’t think anyone could have expected such significant turnout especially this early,” he said.
However, there was some entertainment to pass the time.
Volunteers from voting rights groups handed out snacks, brought DJs to the event, and handed out t-shirts.
Local opera singer Elliott Brown also wanted to help uplift voters waiting in line, so he gave an impromptu concert outside one Richland County voting location.
“What better way to, while opera houses are closed, and we are not able to hold large concerts to come out and be a blessing. And while people raise their voices at the polls to raise my voice and just encourage them, and help the time pass and just be a blessing,” Brown said.