After seemingly years of campaigning, finally, election day is here.
Absentee ballot voters continued to line up in record numbers Monday at sites in York and Rock Hill. More than 24,000 absentee ballots had been cast by Monday, a new record, with tens of thousands of votes to be cast Tuesday on election day.
Across South Carolina, more than half a million absentee ballots had been cast through Monday, officials said.
“The number of absentee ballots, over 24,000, is higher than ever before,” said Alan Helms, deputy director of the York County Voter Registration and Elections Office.
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Helms said voters should be prepared Tuesday at polling precincts by bringing proper photo identification. Precincts are prepared to handle questions, and the county voter office in York can handle problems and assist people through the day Tuesday, but prepared voters will make the lines move faster, Helms said.
Poll workers were busy Monday picking up the voting machines and signs, and all the other materials each precinct will need for Tuesday’s 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. vote.
Tuesday is expected to bring a number of voters that beats 2012, when a record 100,835 people cast ballots in York County.
And for many York County voters, the chance to vote absentee could not come soon enough. The rancorous campaign seemed like it would never end.
Yet the issues important to voters - Obamacare, the economy, jobs - are vital. More, the act of voting, the duty as Americans, came up repeatedly on Monday.
“We have a voice, and as Christians, we have to get out and vote,” said Margaret Dillinger of York.
Joann Linder of Rock Hill was straightforward: “I want to get out and vote and have my voice heard.”
Patty Williams of Rock Hill said that many people, especially women, fought for the right to vote. Bill Harper of Rock Hill, a Marine Corps veteran, said that he did his duty in wartime in the service and wanted to vote.
“I fought for it,” Harper said.
Bruce Randall of Rock Hill said that voting is important to “put your opinion out there about how the government is run,” but said he was not telling anyone who he voted for.
“It is nobody’s dad-gum business,” Randall said.
No doubt, a person’s vote is a secret ballot, and if they don’t want to share that choice in America, they do not have to. That’s why elections are so great: Every person counts the same.
One person, one vote. Rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal.
York County has voted overwhelmingly Republican for president in the past two decades.
The major party candidates for president are Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton. And many down ballot races are contested, too.
Yet many voters wanted to talk only about the presidency - the big race.
Charlie Bustle of Rock Hill said he’s not telling who he voted for but said it is easy to guess because he voted for the guy who keeps saying “Make America Great Again.”
“I don’t want to lose our country,” Bustle said.
A lack of trust in Clinton was mentioned repeatedly by many Republicans. Ruby Childers and her mother, Lillie Campbell, who is disabled, both said they cast absentee ballots for Trump.
“We voted Trump,” Childers said. “I wouldn’t trust Hillary Clinton across the street with my cat.”
Christie Fetti, who voted absentee in York Monday, is not a fan of either Trump or Clinton, but said Trump is a better candidate who will get rid of Obamacare. And as for Clinton, Fetti was blunt.
“Hillary Clinton - she’s a crook,” Fetti said.
Husband and wife Brant Adam and April Adam of York both voted for the first time Tuesday.
“We need a change in America,” Brant Adam said.
Asked who they voted for, both said, and loud: “Donald Trump.”
Leigh Eller of York said she voted “for the good of the country,” and that vote was for Trump because he is “by far the better candidate.”
Conrad Burkette of York was even more blunt, saying that Clinton is more of President Obama, but worse.
“Hillary Clinton is a liar,” Burkette said.
Robert Hinson also voted absentee in York, saying he proudly voted for Trump.
“I voted for the future of our country,” Hinson said. “Democrats been in there so long; it is time for a change.”
Jeff Blackwell of Rock Hill said Trump is the only choice for an America in “chaos.”
“Our country is going down the drain,” Blackwell said. “Trump will bring it back to what it needs to be. It is time to keep jobs right here in the USA.”
Christine Jones of Rock Hill said voting is an American right, and she believes Trump when he says he will “Make America Great Again.”
“And not have a war,” Jones said.
Elizabeth Knight of Rock Hill also said that “a lot of people fought very hard” to ensure the right to vote, and she was proudly supporting Trump and Mike Pence .
“I’m originally from Indiana and I really like Mike Pence,” Knight said.
Rebecca Bennett said voting is “very important” and her vote went to Trump.
“He’s going to take the country where it needs to go,” Bennett said.
There were also Clinton voters in both York and Rock Hill. Clinton’s ties to President Obama and the hopes for continued progress were often mentioned by Democrats.
Sarah Steele of Rock Hill said her vote for Clinton and other Democrats is a vote for her children and grandchildren, for jobs and people in school.
Her son, Andrew Steele, said he voted “for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party” so that the good things and successes started by President Obama continue.
Brian McFadden of Rock Hill said that Hillary Clinton was the clear choice.
“She is the best for this position,” McFadden said of the presidency.
Yet like all the others, no matter who they choose, voters all took pride in the act of voting.
“It’s imprtant to have your voice heard,” McFadden said.
Go to scvotes.org, or York County’s elections office at yorkcountygov.com/registrationandelections.