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Early voting fever: First day brings record long lines, hour-plus waits and election excitement

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early voting, October 2012, people in line, waiting in line
Voters waited more than an hour to cast their ballots at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray. Photo by Tyler Rudick
early voting, October 2012, signs
Early voting kicked on Monday, bringing Houston voters out to the polls in what many believe could be record numbers. Photo by Tyler Rudick
early voting, October 2012, crowd, group
This group of seniors from the High School for Law Enforcement enjoyed a special school-sanctioned field trip to place their first official vote. Photo by Tyler Rudick
early voting, October 2012, people in line, waiting in line
early voting, October 2012, signs
early voting, October 2012, crowd, group
Metropolitan Multi-Services Center
Get Directions - 1475 W. Gray St. Houston

Representative democracy was in full effect throughout the city Monday, as Houston polling locations opened their doors for the first day of early voting.

As the lunch hour drew to a close, CultureMap stopped by a West Gray voting center to find droves of responsible citizens spilling out of the air-conditioned building into the surprisingly warm October afternoon. Those who voted reported waiting more than an hour, but those in line appeared unfazed.

"It's a good sign to see the democratic process so alive and well. We're having a nice 'we the people' moment out here."

For all the drama and decisiveness that's marked this year's presidential campaign — from the "47 percent" and "binders full of women" to "if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that" — the crowds at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center were amazingly cordial . . . or maybe they we're just happy to be putting the 2012 election behind them.

"It's a good sign to see the democratic process so alive and well," Harris County judge Jay Karahan said as he waited outside. "We're having a nice 'we the people' moment out here."

Inside, more than 250 patient voters made their way through the snaking line to the polling machines.

"We've had early voting here for many years and it's never been like this," laughed Dale Ramos, who was on front desk duty at the Multi-Service Center. "We usually only see crowds this size at the very end of early voting or on election day."

Pavement politicking

Out in the parking lot, campaigners and candidates were handing out fliers and running though last-minute pitches. Many professed the same awe at the number of voters who showed on day one. 

"Sometimes an election can come down to just a few hundred votes," candidate Ann Johnson said. "Every vote counts." 

Former prosecutor Ann Johnson, who is running against incumbent Sarah Davis for district 134 state representative, had been at the polling center since the morning to greet potential supporters.

"What an incredible turn out," she told CultureMap. "This is an incredibly important race with many critical issues about education and health. Sometimes an election can come down to just a few hundred votes, so it's great to see so many participants. Every vote counts."

"I've been seriously campaigning for about eight years and this is easily biggest first day of early voting I've seen," said Karl Muench, who was out rallying support for area Republican candidates. 

"People are more passionate about this year's election. Plus, they're getting used to the idea of casting ballots early now that there are so many early-voting centers set up in the city."

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