Many reasons to vote in Harford, as plenty do just that

  • The line grows as folks show up to cast their vote at Jarrettsville Elementary School late Tuesdy morning.
The line grows as folks show up to cast their vote at Jarrettsville… (MATT BUTTON, Aegis staff )

Harford County voters had many reasons for packing the county's 75 polling places of Election Day Tuesday, and not all of them had to do with electing the nation's next commander-in-chief.

The interest shown by Harford's voters translated a huge turnout, which caused long lines and waits at many locations around the county.

Gretchen Hopley, of Bel Air, brought her daughter, Tennyson, with her to vote at Prospect Mill Elementary School near Bel Air around lunchtime Tuesday.

A regular voter, Hopley said "I want her to know she has a say in the world, in how this world is run."

"And I want her to see my vote," Hopley said.

This election is particularly important for her family, Hopley said.

"Tennyson has two mommies. It's very important for us to vote for Question 6," Hopley said. "We want her to be part of this historic decision."

"I want to be able to tell her, 'You were there the first time we tried to vote for this,'" Hopley said.

Voting in general is important she said.

"I think we all have a role in deciding our futures. We all have different ideas what the future should be," Hopley said. "That's what makes it more interesting."

Besides what most expected would be a close presidential vote nationally between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, the statewide ballot questions drew voters to the polls in Harford County in droves Thursday.

Crowds, waiting times varied

Although some polling places were busier than others, the time of day also appeared to be a factor in how much of a wait voters experienced.

At Bel Air High School around lunchtime, there was no need to wait for the next available voting station. As of 1 p.m., 558 people had voted.

Garrett Tollenger, a chief election judge at BAHS, said the stream of people had been steady all day up until 30 minutes earlier, when the crowd died down significantly.

At 6:30 a.m., there were 30 people waiting in line for the polls to open at 7 a.m. and 106 people voted in the first hour, Tollenger.

Bel Air resident Patricia Pritchett appreciated being able to get in and out. She said she was able to vote within five minutes.

"Early voting helped," Pritchett said in taking a guess why there weren't more people voting at BAHS. "They didn't want to wait in lines."

Pritchett said she found the state and county ballot questions confusing, even after reading them carefully.

"You won't know what to believe anymore," she said about conflicting ads on the questions.

Pritchett voted for Romney because she's "not happy with what's going with Obama." But if the White House and Congress don't start working together, she continued, "nothing will get done."

No waiting for voters

William S. James Elementary School in Abingdon was slightly ahead of its northern neighbor with 732 voters by 1 p.m.

"One machine got stuck and one turned off," said Chief Judge Charlotte Robinson, "but no big issues."

Unlike Bel Air High School, roughly 50 people were waiting in line to vote. Robinson said it had been like that all day.

"We usually wait for the voters to come in," she joked. "We didn't expect it."

Dave Williams, of Abingdon, came to vote with his son, Scott, a first time voter.

"It was pretty much what I was expecting," the younger Williams said about his first election experience.

Dave Williams has never missed an opportunity to vote.

"I've voted here for 16 years and this is the longest line I've ever seen," he said.

A registered Democrat, Williams went away from party lines and voted for Rob Sobhani, an Independent, for Senate and Romney for president. So did his son.

"I think there should be term limitation," he said, referring to incumbent Ben Cardin's run in the U.S. Senate. "People get complacent and vote for familiar names."

As for Romney, Williams said, "It's definitely a time for change and not the kind we've had the last four years."

On the ballot questions, Williams voted against both expanded gambling in Maryland and same sex marriage.

Big numbers

Although there was no wait for voters at Patterson Mill High School, the polling location had seen one of the biggest turnouts so far in the Bel Air area - 1,250 voters by 2 p.m.

"It was a long line this morning," said chief judge Maggie Mundle. "There were 255 voters in the first hour."

She added that since opening at 7 a.m. there had "never been a time when the machines weren't all full."

Bel Air resident Susan Reinhardt said for this election she felt "more cynical than I've ever felt."

She explained that in the 2008 election she was originally for Obama, but became disillusioned quickly.

"He's just like every other politician," she said. Reinhardt, a registered Republican, added that it should be a close election as the "country is pretty divided" between the two main candidates.

If Reinhardt had her way, however, "I think I'd get rid of everyone and start over," she joked.

She fears the official winner won't be announced Tuesday night, or even by Wednesday, preparing for something similar to the 2000 election with Al Gore and George W. Bush.

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