Morning lines, steady flow as Douglas County voters go to the polls
Voters said they hope the increased interest in elections continues.
Douglas County poll workers were greeted with the sight of lines in the morning on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The village of Solon Springs reported 10 voters waiting; there were more than 20 outside the Superior Town Hall; Maple had six.
"We had over 20 people waiting at 6:45 a.m.," said Amy Huber, administrator for the village of Lake Nebagamon. "It's usually a couple, but not that many. And it's been busy ever since."
Not just in Lake Nebagamon. Polling sites throughout the county were busy.
Maple, 97.7% voter turnout
By 12:15 p.m., more than 50% of Maple's registered voters had cast a ballot, and the town had eight new registrants. The town sent out 143 absentee ballots this year, which were being counted during brief lulls in foot traffic.
“We’ve had a lot of walk-in traffic,” said chief inspector Gaye Erkel, holding a cup of fruit and yogurt. “This is my breakfast.”
Maple's always been a good voting community, she said, but Tuesday's pace was more brisk than previous elections. From new voters to folks in their 90s, community members turned out to cast their ballot.
“We have seen people that we have not seen in a long time,” Erkel said. “And we’ve had a far greater number of absentee ballots. There’s been a lot more voters.”
Lake Nebagamon, 94.35% voter turnout
With 855 registered voters, the village of Lake Nebagamon reported that more than 50% of votes had been cast by 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, between absentee and in-person ballots.
"We got over 340 absentee ballots returned so far; normal for a presidential (election) is 100," said village administrator Amy Huber. " Everybody’s stepping up to vote, which is good."
They had also added more than 15 new registrants to the list of voters, including one man who has lived in Lake Nebagamon for 60 years but had never voted before.
Pez Davila, 28, was another.
"A lot of younger people like myself don’t really get out and do a lot of voting, and I think this has become such a big deal, sometimes I think for reasons that are over-exaggerated. Whatever we can do to help the country go forward, I mean, why not do it?" Davila said. "It's our right; we're able to do it."
As program director at Neighborhood Youth Services in Duluth, he also wants to lead by example.
" If I want to be any type of example to kids coming up that I’m working with, I can’t tell them to do something that I haven’t done myself," Davila said.
Kalli Botten went to the polls for her children.
"I have kids, and it’s my duty to make sure I come out and do this," she said.
Things in the country are scary, she said, citing recent riots in large cities.
"When are they going to start happening closer to home, and what does that look like?" Botten asked. "So there’s some serious change that needs to happen, and I hope it does."
Village of Solon Springs, 94.59% voter turnout
Steady traffic and 150 absentee ballots combined to keep poll workers busy. The village has 438 registered voters; by 1:28 p.m., poll workers had already tallied 297 ballots. Getting a record turnout, however, could be tough in the village.
"The last presidential election (2016), that was a referendum for the school," said village clerk Kathy Burger. "I want to say that was a 90% turnout."
Masked poll workers waited behind plastic shields with sanitizing spray handy. They were adept at pandemic procedures. Tuesday was the fifth pandemic election for the poll workers. It also happened to be Burger's birthday.
Town of Superior, 95.64% voter turnout
Nearly half of registered voters in the town of Superior had cast their ballots by 2:21 p.m., and poll workers received a number of new registrations. A steady flow of people drove up to exercise their right to vote.
"The elections have pretty much taken over my life this year with five of them," said town clerk Carolyn Jones. "The good thing is the elections have taken my mind off of COVID this year."
Her daughter, Madeline, is also focused on elections.
"My daughter just turned 18 at the end of October, and she was really excited to vote. She actually planned to be here to be the first one in line today, but she overslept a little bit," Jones said. "I didn’t look to see what number she was, but she was here early. She was here when the doors opened."
Each vote was another voice added to the conversation.
"I think you really just have to voice your opinions on how you feel about things because things are not going to get better, and they’re not going to be changed if everybody sits at home and sits on their hands and don’t take action," said Joe Peace, a Marine Corps veteran in Lake Nebagamon.
Botten said she's stepped up her voting participation this year.
"Because I think it’s finally catching everyone’s attention that you can’t say, 'Oh well, other people are going to vote so what’s my one vote?'" she said. "But there were so many people that didn’t vote in the election with Donald Trump and Hillary (Clinton) and how those numbers could have drastically changed the outcome. "
Many voters said they hoped the heightened interest in voting continues long after this election's ballots are counted.
"I hope we start doing stuff like this not just for the presidential elections but for the county-level, city-level, because I think that stuff is important," Davila said. "Sometimes we just think it’s all about the president and what they can do for the country, but we forget about just the little towns and cities we live in and those people that make the laws, the legislators and stuff like that. I feel that’s super important."
When asked what they were looking forward to post-election, voters had varied answers.
"That it’s over. Less drama. I’m sick of hearing about it," Davila said. "I think it would be nice to just get it done and get through the four years. I’m sick of people — grown people — bickering with each other. They sound like high school kids. It’s horrible."
"I am not going to watch TV tonight," Botten said. "I am just going to wake up tomorrow morning and see what happens. I can’t handle the anxiety of it, so I’m going to try to tune out of social media and just hope it works out."
"All we can do is hope for the best," said Verjean Peace.
First-time voter Logan Moreau, 23, of Maple said he looks forward to getting back to normalcy.
"I just want to get back to normal life," he said. "I know it’s going to take a year or two."
This story was updated at 5:10 p.m. Nov. 4 to include updated voter turnout percentages. It was originally posted at 6:26 p.m. Nov. 3.