In the rain, in a state that was destined to go red, voters across the Coast waited an hour or more to cast their ballots.
Much like Barack Obama’s candidacy galvanized voter turnout in 2008, Trump seems to have moved people, on the Coast and across the country, to vote in unexpected numbers.
“I would have stood there twice as long if I had to. I wouldn’t have cared,” said Dawn Herndon. “I was going to cast my ballot.”
Herndon, who waited in line about 30 minutes to vote for Trump, said she has lived — and in every election, voted — in her Woolmarket precinct for the past 15 years and she’s never had to wait behind more than a couple people in line. On Tuesday, that line had 30 to 40 people. She drove by the precinct several times and each time, the line wrapped around the building.
“People were standing in the rain. They didn’t care. They brought umbrellas and were prepared,” she said. “It was just absolutely amazing.”
Across the Coast, from the moment polls opened at 7 a.m. to after the official close of voting at 7 p.m., readers across the Coast reported long lines. Some said they had to leave the line to go to work or school and then return in an attempt to cast a ballot. There were at least a couple reports of people simply giving up because a physical condition or job prevented them from standing in line.
When the polls closed at 7 p.m., there were still 200 people in line at a D’Iberville precinct. At 8:20 p.m., 120 people were still waiting in vote in Gautier.
Marvin Clifford, a 52-year-old Trump supporter, said he waited an hour and a half to vote around 10:30 a.m. at Lyman Elementary School. He said neither he nor anyone he spoke with have ever seen so many people out voting.
“It was amazing to see everyone participating in our political process for a change,” he said. “In the future, it would be great if everyone would participate in every election, and not wait until our country is on the bring of complete disaster to get involved.”
In Harrison County, the unofficial turnout on Tuesday was 62,942, or about 55 percent of the total electorate. It was less than the 2008 turnout, but still larger than most elections, said Circuit Clerk Connie Ladner.
The county had gotten so many absentee ballots that officials expected a large turnout, and with that large turnout came long lines.
“Obviously, we don’t like people to have to stand in line, but we’re encouraged by the turnout,” she said. “ I’m thankful for the voter turnout we had in Harrison County and appreciate everyone going to the polls and waiting in line to cast their vote. How fortunate we are that we live in a country that gives us a voice and allows us to cast our vote.”
In Jackson County, 45,809 people cast ballots for around a 60 percent voter turnout. There were 3,000 absentee ballots cast.
“I was blown away by the turnout,” Circuit Clerk Randy Carney said. “It’s very exciting to see that this many people were this excited about this election and wanted to make sure their vote counted. They stood in line in the rain to make sure their vote counted and that’s exciting to me.”
Hancock County also saw an unusually good turnout with 17,622 ballots cast.
Statewide totals were not immediately available Wednesday but Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said around 4 p.m. Tuesday that turnout was strong and consistent. Observers at random polling places across the state were reporting voting percentages between 36 and 44 percent.
Both Carney and Ladner said they would discuss with their respective county election commissioners what they could do to shorten lines in the future.
For Herndon, this election brought some hope that the Coast, and country, could continue to see high voter turnout.
“People had their voices heard for the first time in a long time,” she said. “I know a lot of people who didn’t bother to go to polls because they thought their voice doesn’t matter, their vote doesn’t count. This showed they were wrong. I think it will increase voter turnout in the future.”