Despite Florida early voting being open for two weeks prior to Nov. 8, eager voters woke up early to sit in their cars waiting until voting locations opened on Tuesday morning to be among the first to cast their ballots on Election Day.
University of Miami junior Robert Highbloom was the first one to arrive at St. Augustine Church, a polling place across the street from the Coral Gables campus. Highbloom said he came to vote at 6:30 a.m. because the rest of his day would be filled with classes, but he knew he needed to vote.
“I’m glad that I’m out here and I’m making a difference. I honestly feel that my vote is important,” he said.
Highbloom, an undecided voter, said he would be making his decision in the booth but was leaning toward voting for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. However, he said he didn’t feel confident about his preferred candidate winning the election – a recurring sentiment among voters at St. Augustine.
UM seniors Erick Lorinc, a Clinton supporter, woke up early and walked over with his friend Stephanie Weetman to the polling station. Both said they’re doubting whether Clinton will be able to clinch the presidency.
“I wish I was more confident. I really want her to win more than anything. The alternative is horrifying so hopefully we’ll do good,” said Lornic, a motion pictures major. “That’s why we’re voting.”
Although some voters waiting outside in the church’s courtyard were feeling nervous about the outcome of the election, one voter wanted to make the best out of his time waiting.
A 95-year-old man sitting in an electric wheelchair, who said he goes by Tony, was among one of the first to line up ready to cast his vote. With a bright red elf Christmas hat on his head, the Coral Gables resident caught the attention of the rest people in line when he took out a pair or metal handcuffs with a ring stuck in between them. He told everyone to watch him as he got the ring out by twisting the handcuffs which brought smiles and laughter from some in the line.
Lorinc, one of the people who tried unsuccessfully to release the ring, said Tony’s trick added to the experience of waiting in line to vote.
“It was awesome that he was able to entertain us in line while we waited,” Lorinc said. “The trick that he did was insane.”
Tony said on a day as serious as Election Day, he just wanted to “make people happy.”
According to Fernando Delpino, a Miami-Dade County Poll Deputy manning St. Augustine’s polls, the length of the 7 a.m. line that Tony entertained will not be the same later on in the day. After working security on election days for over 15 years, Delpino, 56, said he expects an influx in traffic starting at 4 p.m. when residents start getting off of work.
“It’s going to get very crowded. The busiest part will come between 4 and 7 when the polls get closer to closing,” he said. “I don’t think early voting will make the lines shorter today. There will still be many people.”
Florida early voting began on Oct. 24 and continued through Nov. 6. Roughly 6.4 million people early voted during this period — a record number. Early voting waiting times were expected to be significantly less than wait times on Election Day. However, Vice Dean of the UM School of Law, Osamudia James, said she wanted to vote on Election Day to bring her daughter along with her and show her the importance of voting.
“I felt emotional getting out of the car. I just think its important for her to see and I’m happy to do it with her. I want her to remember this forever,” James said.
James described the importance of youth voting in the election as “paramount” and said she hopes young people, including her daughter someday, vote to shape the country the way they want. She said she even made her child make her a promise when she finished voting.
“As we left I said to her, ‘Always vote. Promise me, you’ll always vote,’” James said.