Early Tuesday morning at the Centreville High School cafeteria, where Newgate South precinct voters cast their ballots, the lines stretched out the doors, down a long hall and outside to the parking lot.
By 7:30 a.m., the line had thinned up just a bit—but it still stretched outdoors.
The scene was repeated all over the Centreville area Tuesday morning, as voters at some precincts reported wait times of up to two hours. Though no one ultimately knows who local voters will choose as their next president, one thing was clear: these voters are not ambivalent and they will wait.
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Brian Treadwell, the chief election officer at Newgate South, has volunteered at elections since 1988. The only other time he had seen crowds like Tuesday's was during the 2008 elections.
Between assisting voters and making sure everything ran smoothly, he said that perhaps one of the reasons things took so long was because of the lengthy questions at the bottom of the ballots.
"We're trying to push people through here as quickly as possible, but there are some complicated bond and constitutional amendments on the ballot," he said. "These are never easy issues for the voters."
But the crowds at Newgate South, where just under 400 voters had come through as of 7:30 a.m., were nothing compared to those at Powell Elementary.
At 10 a.m.—when the early-morning rush usually begins to die down—the crowds still stretched out of the room designated for voting, down the hall, into a long nearby hallway, down all the way and around the corner, then wound around the perimeter of the second hallway.
Voters had begun to stop by the school to inquire about polling hours as early as 4:50 a.m., when chief election officer Karen O'Kolosvary arrived at the school.
"It's been very hectic," she said.
There's been a definite upswing in the number of voters at the Powell precinct. Even in 2008, when she worked as an election officer at Powell, she didn't see the kind of crowds that swarmed the precinct Tuesday.
"We didn't have humongous lines," O'Kolosvary said. "We didn't have lines all day. This has been four hours and people are still lined up all the way down the hall. So people are really coming out."
By 10 a.m. 821 people had voted at the precinct.
That experience matched up with what Larry Danewitz, the chief election officer at Chantilly, saw Tuesday morning.
"2008 was big, but I don't think it was as big as this," he said.
At Bull Run, a smaller precinct, lines were not quite so long, but turnout was still quite strong. Approximately 300 people had cast their paper ballots, and around 700 cast electronic votes by around 11 a.m., said Jim Marotta, the chief election officer.
The first hour was the busiest, Marotta said, but he expected many more voters to come in over their lunch hours and after work.