Like the rest of the country, residents of Houston, Texas, began lining up early this morning. In Missouri City, a predominantly Black suburb, more than 100 people were in line before City Hall-a primary voting site-opened its doors at 7 a.m. But 30 minutes later the lines were gone and arriving voters were pleasantly surprised to find they didn't have to wait.
Poll monitors say it's a telltale sign of the enthusiasm surrounding the election, which led many to cast their ballots early. Final numbers aren't in, but thousands of Houston-area residents are believed to have taken advantage of early voting from October 20-31. In fact, local churches, media and elected officials formed a task force to implement an Early Voting Campaign to drive people to the polls. During the 2004 election, more than 440,000 people voted early in Houston and the task force set a goal to get 100,000 more people to vote early in 2008.
For those who didn't vote early, they came to the polls today ready to wait. Most were happy to find they didn't have to. "It was easy-in and out. I thought I'd see a line," says first-time voter Terrance Williams, who made his "boys" accompany him to the poll site. "It was fast; it wasn't what I expected."
Williams says he has seen many presidential elections, but has never been inspired to vote. "I came out because I want to see change," he says. "There was no way I could let this election pass without voting."
Even those who encountered minor problems were in good spirits. "We have to go to a different location," says Eula Lee Davis. "This is the wrong polling place for us, but it's great to see that there are no lines. That's because everyone early-voted!"
ReShonda Tate Billingsley is the author of Can I Get a Witness?