"Civic Duty" Brings Long Lines to Shelby County Early Voting Locations

Oct 15, 2020

At Anointed Temple of Praise, an early voting location, first day lines stretched down the block.
Credit WKNO/Caleb Suggs

It was 4:30 Wednesday morning when Brenda Rogers arrived at Anointed Temple of Praise on Riverdale. 

"I was number seven in line," she said. "I feel that it's an important reason for us to vote because we need a change."

Rogers was just one of 26,839 people who cast their votes Wednesday, setting a record first-day early voting turnout in Shelby County, previously held by the 16,265 people who showed up for day one of 2008. The total for Wednesday fell just shy of the overall one-day record, also set in 2008, of 26,877. 

With long lines at locations across the county, many braved the polls because they believed this to be a historic election year. 

"The issues are big," said Christian Taty. "We're in the middle of a pandemic. There's a lot at stake, so I decided to come on the first day of early voting and try to get it done."

Due to coronavirus concerns, 22,000 requested absentee ballots this year, also a record number. But for voters like Frederick Cooper, showing up in person was worth the risk and the time spent. 

"If I can stand in line for anything else, I can stand in line for this," he said. "Long as I keep my face in my protection, I'm good. God's got me."

Carl Hudson, a long-haul truck driver, says political divisiveness has been amplified by the media. 

"I travel all across this country, and I meet people every day," he says. "What I feel from the people out there when I'm on the ground, no matter what their political affiliation, is not what I see on TV. It seems like the media perpetuates the divide."

For Hudson, voting is a civic duty. He made early voting a family outing, instructing his daughters that it's not whom you vote for that matters. It's that you vote your conscience.

"At least you can sleep and rest at night that you cast your vote for the person that you wanted and that gives you a say-so, whether your person wins or don't win," he said.

Hudson's daughter Kaylyn, 19, was excited to vote not just because this was her first time casting a ballot, but because she feels it could make a difference. 

"Seeing how our nation is right now, and who's running it, I kind of feel the need to vote and try to pour my beliefs on who I feel like shouldn't be in office and who should be in office," she said.

And with an election that is breaking early voting records across the country, many citizens are making those beliefs known well ahead of Election Day.