HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Election Day is only three days away, and on the last day of early voting in person, droves of people showed up to their precinct to cast their ballot.
At the Great Neck Recreation Center in Virginia Beach Saturday afternoon, the line stretched to the street. Some voters waited up to three hours, while others arrived as early at 5 a.m. well before doors opened at 9 a.m.
Virginia Beach resident Emily Marks, 19, is voting for the first time on Tuesday.
“This is crazy,” she said. “I didn’t expect there to be so many people in line today, especially for early voting.”
Marks said she’s noticed more young people her age heading to the polls.
“I’m looking forward to having my voice heard for the first time,” she said. “I think it’s cool I get to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Emily’s father, Jeffrey Marks, is the chairman of the Virginia Beach Electoral Board.
As of Saturday, Marks said an estimated 60,000 people have already voted in person. This election year, the city is expected to have a record-breaking turnout.
“Voter participation is up across the board,” Marks said. “I think there’s a lot of issues people are excited about.”
Marks is also reminding voters to pack some patience at the polls.
“People have been waiting a long time and I know sometimes they can get frustrated, but they need to know that everyone at the registrar’s office, Dona Patterson and her staff are incredibly professional,” said Marks. “They work hard. They’ve been working every single day of the week. They are very diligent in making sure that it’s a fair and accurate voting process.”
University of Lynchburg student Kevon James drove three and a half hours from school to the Great Neck Rec Center to vote for the first time.
“I just wanted to have that first time voting in person and not do an absentee ballot,” James said.
In Norfolk, there were no long lines, but there was a high voter turnout as well, including youth voters.
“I think that young people have been energized by the election,” said Michael Khandelwal, the secretary of the Norfolk Electoral Board.
Khandelwal said more than 35,000 people turned up at the ballot box in Norfolk since early voting began mid-September.
“Being civic-minded is very important and caring about what happens in your community and caring about what happens in your city government and state government and federal government, so voting is a big part of that.”
Khandelwal said the most important thing someone can do is exercise their right to vote.
“I think that everybody’s vote can make a difference in the presidential election,” he said. “Certainly, yes the younger voters have always made a difference, as have older voters. Every vote really does matter and will count.”
Election officials don’t anticipate as long of lines on Election Day because of the record number of voters who did cast their ballot early. Polls in Virginia open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
According to the VA Public Access Project, so far nearly 2.5 million Virginians have voted by mail or in person.