People lined up by the hundreds for much of Friday in Oklahoma City to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting ahead of Tuesday's general election.
Voters arrived as early as 4 a.m. at the building housing the Oklahoma County Election Board at 4202 N Lincoln Blvd., even though doors didn't open until 8 a.m.
Throughout much of a sun-drenched and unseasonably warm day, when temperatures reached the mid-80s, a line of people about the length of a football field stretched along the east side of the building. People found refuge under an overhang, but by noon, the line stretched into the uncovered parking lot. Cars trying to enter the lot were backed up for blocks on southbound Lincoln. By 4 p.m., the line had dwindled to just a few people waiting outside the office doors.
“I was delighted I had to stand in it,” Carolee Galbraith, 78, of Oklahoma City, said of her 75-minute wait in line at midday.
“I'm proud of everybody turning out.”
Voting ended at 6 p.m. Friday, but it will continue from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at county election board offices across the state.
On Tuesday, people who don't want to vote early can do so from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at their regular polling places.
Paul Ziriax, secretary of the state Election Board, said turnout Friday was the heaviest since the last presidential election, but it still was too early to know whether this year's vote totals would exceed 2008, when more than 1.46 million votes were cast statewide.
“Certainly we've had very good turnout so far,” Ziriax said Friday afternoon. “At this point, things seem to be going very smoothly.”
A minor glitch was reported Friday in McClain County, where an early morning problem knocked out one of three computers that election officials were using in Purcell to verify voter registration.
“It happened at the beginning of the day when we had a long line,” said Marilyn McReynolds, McClain County Election Board secretary. “But we managed it and it worked out just fine, and we took care of everybody.”
She estimated voters may have been delayed five minutes.
What voters said
For those who cast ballots Friday, it marked the end of what has been one of the most expensive, contentious and divisive presidential campaigns in memory. The Oklahoman approached several people after they voted in Oklahoma City and asked them to discuss their decision. A few declined, but many willingly offered their thoughts.
For Audrey Hogue, 21, of Newalla, Friday provided her first opportunity to cast a ballot in a presidential election. It went to Republican challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
“I believe in what they stand for,” Hogue said. “I'm sick of putting up with what's happened the last four years.”
Jasper Davis voted for only the second time in a presidential election. The Oklahoma City resident will be 62 on Monday. Badgering from his landlord and a television ad that drove home the importance of every vote convinced him to cast a ballot, he said.
Davis voted for President Barack Obama.
“He seems like a more real guy to me,” Davis said of the president.
“I didn't like the Cayman accounts of Romnesia,” he said in reference to Romney's offshore bank accounts. “He seems too plastic to me.”
Saundra Herriage, 70, of Oklahoma City, and her husband, J.C., 75, both voted for Romney. Saundra Herriage runs her own small prosthetics company for women who undergo mastectomies. Her husband works part-time for another small business.
“I think he understands business,” Saundra Herriage said, noting Romney's role in rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. “He knows the economy and how all that runs.”
“Mr. Obama has not done anything for the small business owner, and that's who hires people in this country,” J.C. Herriage said.
Geno Taylor, 58, of Midwest City, said he preferred the status quo.
“I figured that Obama wants to continue doing what he's doing,” Taylor said. “You need to let him continue. You gotta give him a shot at it.
“I'm not saying (Romney and Ryan) wouldn't do a good job, but they'd just have to start over again.”
Michelle Henry, 46, of Harrah, preferred anything but the status quo and voted for Romney.
“I don't want a traitor in the White House anymore,” Henry said. “I don't trust him. He's taking us down a road to ruin.”
Josh Hodges, 30, of Edmond, also cast his vote for Romney.
“It comes down to pro-government or pro-people and private sector, and I'm pro-people and private sector,” Hodges said. “Plus, I'm a gun guy.”
Rosetta Woodberry, 68, of Oklahoma City, said she trusted Obama's heart.
“He has proven to be consistent, and he's proven he has an interest for the nation as a whole,” she said. “I look at his track record. … He turned down large salaries to minister to the people. That's what inspired me.”
Lorinda Dugar and her three cousins mugged for photographs outside the election board offices after voting. All four said they'd voted for Obama.
“I like his values and what he believes in,” said Dugar, 59, of Oklahoma City, who pointed out Obama's quick response in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as opposed to former President George W. Bush's reactions in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
Her cousin, Faye Greenhoward, 59, of the Forest Park neighborhood in Oklahoma City and a retired General Motors worker, cited the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and Obama's support of the auto industry in helping decide her vote.
John Roy, 31, a political consultant from Edmond, said he voted for Romney “to get off the ship we've been sinking under.”
Roy said he was leaving after Friday's vote for Iowa, where he is volunteering in Romney's campaign.
Pat Warton emerged from the election board office with a smile on her face and raving about the weather. Warton, 76, is scheduled for heart surgery Tuesday. But she said she'd never missed a presidential vote and wasn't about to this time. She voted for Obama.
“It's worth waiting in line,” she said. “We're very blessed in this country.”