Krystal Domaratius, 26, and her mom Kathy, 52, didn’t think they were going to be waiting in line for about two and a half hours to vote when they drove up to Monroe County Government Election Central on Saturday morning.
They knew the lines had been long during the week, but this line stretched from the building’s entrance around the block and down the street parallel to where it started. It was far too long for people who were only wearing sweatshirts and jeans with the temperature being in the low 50s.
So, they turned around and went home to grab coats and hats and gloves and went to Starbucks for some hot coffee — a Grande mocha for Krystal and a Grande white chocolate mocha with peppermint for Kathy.
Then, they drove back and got in line.
Krystal said she didn’t think about leaving because she has two jobs, so today would have to be the day. Kathy said she votes to show her kids they can have a voice. She said she went Saturday because she didn’t want to wait in line by herself, and that Krystal really encourages her to vote.
“Every vote counts,” Krystal said to her mom.
Kathy said she had another reason to vote this year: “I don’t like Cheetos.”
Krystal and Kathy were two of hundreds of people who participated in early voting Saturday — the first Saturday the poll was open.
Some of them were IU students voting in their first presidential election. Others were more experienced voters and members of the Bloomington community. Either way, they all had to wait in line to file into the office that felt smaller because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The line has not been two and half hours long every day, but the Indiana Daily Student has observed that the wait to vote in Monroe County has been about 30 minutes to an hour long on weekdays.
Many people didn’t have a choice but to wait in the lines because they did not qualify for an absentee ballot. Indiana is one of nine states requiring a reason to cast an absentee ballot, according to a report by WISH-TV. Other states have made it easier to participate in absentee voting this year in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or to encourage people to vote who may not be comfortable being around others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, many Monroe County residents don’t have a choice but to wait in the line and be around others inside the Election Central building.
IU sophomore Tina Huang said she felt like there were too many people around her when she was in line in the building to pick up her paper ballot, but she didn’t feel overwhelmed because everyone had a mask on.
Kiersten Hardy, another IU student who came with Huang and other sophomore Natasha Carlton, said although she felt crowded at times, they moved through the building quickly and there was hand sanitizer in multiple places and the pens were sanitized.
Hardy said she needed to vote Saturday because she works in addition to being a full-time student, so she didn’t have the option to vote another day.
“I knew that I had to allot a huge amount of time that I just don’t have during the week,” Hardy said.
Hardy was not the only person who did not have the option to leave and come back another day when they saw the line formed around Election Central.
Sarah Terrell, 31, has a 2-year old son and his dad was able to take care of him on Saturday. Even so, she didn’t expect to be in line for more than two hours.
“I’m gonna be later than I thought,” she said in a text to her partner.
Robinson De Jesus, 25, and Jose Chimelis, 25, said they had jobs during the week that prevented them from voting except on Saturday.
"Today is the day,” Chimelis said.
Both Chimelis and De Jesus said they wanted to vote early because they are afraid they won’t be able to maintain social distance the closer it gets to Election Day.
“It’s gonna be worse,” De Jesus said.
To pass the time in line, De Jesus and Chimelis listened to podcasts and talked to each other.
Erin Richey, 38, completed three puzzles in her pocket crossword book.
Terrell texted and called other people.
While many of them had adorned themselves in winter coats or purchased coffee or tea to warm themselves up, there were others who had not thought to run across the way to Hopscotch Coffee.
Constance Furey, 51, and Jason Fickel, 52, who had been driving to the farmers market, decided to stop and pass out coffee when they saw how long the line was.
Furey, an IU professor of religious studies, said she wanted to help out because she had voted on the second day of early voting when it was warm outside.
So, to help those voting stay warm, they spent at least an hour taking coffee and cups over to those standing in line, Fickel said.
“We’re not going to be able to change the system to make voting easier in the next few weeks, so we’re just trying to provide a little bit of warmth for people out here in the cold,” he said.
People should not have to wait in lines that are hours long to vote, and some people don’t have the time to wait for that long, Furey said.
“Voting should be easier,” she said. “Voting should not be a privilege, it should be a right."