CRESTVIEW — Lines stretched out of the library lobby, across the portico and down the sidewalk Saturday morning as several area residents took a sunny fall day to vote on the early voting period’s last day.
Of Okaloosa County’s 129,578 registered voters, 32,811 cast ballots during the Oct. 27-Nov. 3 early voting week. Of those, 10,588 voted at the two north county polling places, including more than 7,600 at the Crestview Public Library and almost 3,000 at the Supervisor of Elections office on Wilson Street.
Among those exiting the library’s main meeting room was Carmine Harrell, who had just exercised his right to vote for the first time. Carmine, a Crestview High School senior, turned 18 Saturday.
“It was the first thing he wanted to do,” Lee Harrell, his mother, said. “He feels empowered. He was very excited. It was the first thing he said this morning: ‘I get to vote today!’ He’s been talking about it all week.”
Seizing the opportunity to vote for his local and national civic leaders was a great feeling, he said.
“It was good. It was easy,” Carmine said after voting. “I feel more American today.”
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said, at times, the large turnout of voters like Carmine overwhelmed early voting places. While voters at the Crestview library waited in line for often more than 15 minutes Saturday morning, the wait in Shalimar sometimes reached 40 minutes, Lux said. The two legal-sized, two-sided-page ballots kept printers humming. But sometimes the machines got overworked.
“There’s always the occasional problem when you put that kind of stress on a computerized system,” Lux said. “There will always be some technical hiccups.”
Lux said that given the amount of interest in tomorrow’s presidential election, he expects a high turnout at the polls on Election Day. However, he said, even with a slate of constitutional amendments, local and national offices, some voters wouldn’t bother to vote.
“I always like to tell people I would like to be pleasantly proved wrong by having everybody come out to vote,” Lux said.