First day of early voting sets record in Black Mountain

Mimi Kates
Special to The Black Mountain News

Last Thursday, the first day of early voting in North Carolina,

The line was out the door at Black Mountain Library almost immediately after early voting opened at 10 a.m. last Thursday. Like fans flocking to buy tickets to a rock concert, local voters gathered outside the library with an air of anticipation.

Theodore Long, 63, was surprised to see so many people. “I wanted to get my vote in early. I wasn’t expecting this crowd,” he said.

Regardless of political affiliation, Black Mountain residents emanated neighborly tolerance as they waited in line to cast their ballots.

Jennyanna Linde-Rind, 63, said she and her husband vote in every election. “We’ve been waiting so long for this day ... the beginning of the end,” she said, expressing a seemingly popular sentiment. “Basically, I just want to get it over with.”

“There’s a lot on the line,” her husband Patrick Rind, 67, added seriously.

“Let’s get this wild rumpus underway!” Ned Percival, 48, announced with apparent enthusiasm.

Local Democratic political activist Richard McConnell, 72, affirmed his support for Hillary Clinton. “I think she’s got the intelligence, the experience and the heart to make things better for our country,” he said.

James Mulligan, a 36-year military veteran, respectfully disagreed.

“America needs a change, I think,” the 92-year-old man said. He and his wife Phyllis Mulligan, 78 chose to vote early because they planned to be out of town trip on Election Day.

Donald Taylor-Evans, 44, said he felt disillusioned about the election. “I’m very political, and I’m very torn. I’m tired of being duped.”

There were no high-pressure sales pitches from campaigners to people waiting in line. Members of the Sierra Club maintained a low-key presence, offering a list of their endorsed environmentally-friendly candidates. In the parking area, Bob Chilmonik, 62, local Republican candidate for the N.C. House of Representatives, chatted amiably with interested voters.

Chilmonik said he’s not worried about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. “Whatever happens,” he said, “America will survive.”

In sharp contrast to the partisan mud-slinging prevalent in this year’s presidential campaign, a refreshing sense of cooperation prevailed among Black Mountain voters and site volunteers alike.

Holly Boswell, 65, who entered voters’ ballots inside, was impressed by the strong showing. “It’s just phenomenal. There’s been an unending line all day,” she said.

Pamela Norton, 60, captain for the afternoon shift at the polls, worked swiftly and efficiently to accommodate the unusually large turnout. Norton periodically stepped outside to reassure the crowd with her ready smile and good-natured banter. “As long as you people are patient,” she told them, “I can be patient all day!”

A busload of residents from the Givens Highland Farms retirement community arrived mid-afternoon, adding significantly to the already long queue. Several people allowed elders using walkers or canes to go ahead of them in line, and Norton carried chairs outside to help make their wait more comfortable.

“We’ve had over 300 people already today,” Norton commented just after 3 p.m.

By the time the polls closed at 6 p.m., the total climbed to 570 voters, according to Neggy Fox, Buncombe County Board of Elections early voting coordinator.

“We had a record turnout for the first day of early voting at the Black Mountain Library polling site,” said Fox. “There were 7,500 countywide, which well exceeded 2012.”

Valerie Hartshorn, 33, who rode up on her specialty long bike with children in tow, takes voting very seriously.

“If you want the world to be a more vibrant loving place, you’ve got to show up,” she said. “If I can bike here with three children, anyone can do it.”