BELOIT — Long lines stretched outside polling places in the Stateline Area Tuesday as voters turned out in droves to cast their ballots.
Voters at Central Christian Church, typically one of the city’s busiest polling places, saw a steady stream of voters throughout the day.
“We’ve seen a lot of new voter registrations and first-time voters,” said. Central Christian chief election official Ana Kelly. “So far we haven’t had any issues. We cannot say enough about the preparation taken by the City of Beloit. We have had a great team here all day. It’s wonderful to see.”
For Beloit residents Janet Medina, 21, and Melanie Hernandez, 18, Tuesday’s election marked the first time they had voted.
“Why not try to help and make a change,” Medina said.
“I was super excited. This is a new experience and being able to have a say in this is amazing. It was a new experience for both of us,” Hernandez added. “It went really well. I wanted to come out for personal reasons and to help make a difference. Either way, your vote counts. It’s very important.”
Election official Norah Gard has helped with Beloit elections for the last decade and said this year’s election is the most unique election she has ever worked.
“The upgrades in the equipment really make a difference in speeding things up,” Gard said. “The masks and social distancing is new, too. But it’s going really well. It’s the smoothest election I’ve worked as a poll worker.”
Election official Scott Miller, of Beloit, is a retired U.S. Marine and said assisting with voting was just another way he could help his fellow Americans. Tuesday marked the first-ever election Miller worked as a volunteer.
“I just thought this was a pivotal election,” Miller said. “Considering that I don’t work, I knew I wanted to help people in any way I could. The training was great and very informative.”
Voters at Central Christian were all wearing masks and adhering to social distancing requirements put in place to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. Between each voter, an election official would wipe down the voting booth to disinfect the private space.
William Klobucar, 20, of Beloit, said this was his first time ever casting a ballot in a general election.
“It was pretty exciting, actually,” Klobucar said. “It’s something I have always wanted to do. I’ve always talked about it with my family and it’s always been important. It’s important.”
Jessa Brockmiller, of Beloit, said she found Tuesday’s voting process to be easy.
“Everyone was really friendly and helped explain things. This is just one of the things you have to do. It’s your responsibility to help shape the country,” Brockmiller said.
At 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Beloit Public Library a line of voters stretched outside of the building and wound around close to the nearby Beloit Area Community Health Center.
Those in line remained peaceful and all were wearing masks as poll workers and lots of hand sanitizer awaited them inside.
Poll workers including Kevin Leavy were helping people register to vote if necessary and to round up their ballots.
Those in line said voting was worth the wait.
“It’s really important to get out and vote,” Michael Ward said.
Ward said he had waited to do in-person voting on Tuesday due to his work schedule.
Jason Congin of Beloit said he had been busy and waited until election day. He said it felt like any other election day, with the exception of having to wear masks. He said he would be glad when it was over and that he generally keeps his politics to himself.
Warren Lee Smith, said the election took on extra importance because of what is one the line.
“It’s either freedom or tyranny to me,” he said. “It’s either someone competent or incompetent and if you’ve watched the other guy on TV, you will understand.”
About 73 people were in line to vote at the Town Hall in the Town of Beloit around 7:15 a.m.
“I didn’t think this many people were going to come early,” said Daniel Marx, who joined the line of voters.
In Afton, a line was forming outside the Town of Rock Town Hall.
“This will go down as the biggest election in history,” said Tracie Connell, who was outside town hall around 8:30 a.m.
About 35 to 40 people were lined up outside Didier Hall in South Beloit Tuesday morning just before polls opened at 6 a.m.
Howard C. Barber was standing in line with his daughter, Laila Barber, who was there to vote for the first time.
“I’m going to show her the ropes,” Howard Barber said with a laugh.
Howard Barber was a little surprised by the number of people who showed up so early to vote.
“This is only the second time I have ever seen a line,” he said. But he decided it was worth waiting in line. “I think it is real important to get out and vote.”
A few steps ahead of the father and daughter voters was D.J. Barber (no relation to the other Barbers) who also felt it was important to vote. He said he didn’t vote by mail because he is more comfortable voting in person.
“I like voting in person. It’s the way I have always done it.
In the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday, voters continued to turn out in large numbers at the Beloit Public Library.
Beloit resident Trizzie Smith said she waited for about an hour before casting her ballot. She said she expected a much longer line and was happy it didn’t take too much more than an hour to vote.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” Smith said, adding she felt comfortable with fellow voters adhering social distancing and using several available hand sanitizer stations.
Poll worker Flora Milford, a New York state native and a freshman student at Beloit College, said Tuesday was her first time casting a ballot and helping out at the polls.
Milford said the lines held steady all day at the library, with no lulls as voters continuously showed up.
“It’s a good thing though, everyone is coming out to vote,” Milford said. “It’s just important that everyone can have a voice in their democracy. Everyone being out here is pretty amazing.”
As the sun set late Tuesday afternoon, voters at Converse Elementary waited around 20 minutes to cast their votes.
The election represented a first for Kara Quackenbush: A chance to vote in a Presidential election.
“It felt good to be able to say my vote counted towards deciding who was going to be president,” Quackenbush said. “Plus, my mom said I had to.”
Max and Carrie Loerke said that voting was a regular occurrence for them, and the chance to cast their ballot in person was important.
“We vote every time an election comes around, so this is just natural for us,” Max Loerke said.
“And with all the crazy stuff happening with the mail, I just felt a lot better about filling it out in person.”
Earlier in the day, at the Beloit Public Library, a voter reported around 11:30 a.m. that an election official informed voters waiting in line that they needed to follow proper social distancing requirements while waiting in line.
Staff members Austin Montgomery, Hillary Gavan, Josh Flickinger, Clint Wolf and Brad Allen contributed to this report.