Mississippians wait in long lines to make history

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The voting lines that everybody expected were actually longer than anticipated Tuesday morning. Across the coast, thousands of people patiently waited for a chance to participate in this historic presidential election.

The polls looked so peaceful 20 minutes before they opened. Kay Broussard was meeting with her staff.

"That's the time when we get organized," the precinct manager said. "We have everybody hold their positions. They know their jobs. So that when the crowd comes in, we're ready for them."

The poll workers had no idea that behind a closed door were more than 200 voters in a line that snaked through the Donal Snyder Center. Mike Wieniewitz was the first person in line.

"We knew it was going to be a large turnout. So that's why we got here early," said Wieniewitz. "We wanted to get this, cast our vote and have it done."

Joannie Whye showed up at the same time -- 5:45 a.m.

"I wanted to be one of the first ones to vote today," she said.

At 7:00, two doors swung open.

"Here we go," a voter shouted.

"Welcome," said a poll worker.

Harrison County's second largest voting precinct was open.

Eric White was about to vote.

"Mississippi voters are pretty loyal, so they get here on time. So I'm going to be here on time," he said, explaining why he arrived so early.

Emma Hanna lives around the corner from the Donal Snyder Community Center. She said she decided to stand in the long line, "because I wanted to get it over with."

As the 41st ballot was going through the scanner, the machine started beeping. That ballot was jammed. Kay Broussard dashed over to assess the mishap. The precinct manager quickly found a solution.

"When all else fails, go back to primitive times," she said. "We put the box up, the regular ballot box, and let the voters vote."

Those ballots would be put through the scanner later in the morning, once a technician repaired the system.

Nobody in line complained. The throng of voters was simply glad to be participating in the 2008 elections.

"It's a very important day," Mrs. Hanna said. "Wouldn't miss voting in this one for anything."