Election 2020 got off to a roaring start Monday with long lines at both the downtown election office and Intrust Bank Arena, where Sedgwick County set up its first-ever mega-voting site for those wanting to cast their ballots early.
Usually, the first day of in-person advance voting sees a trickle of people, mostly county employees who are already in proximity to the election office anyway.
Not this October.
The election office in the county Historic Courthouse was mobbed with voters when it opened at 8 a.m.
In fact, Greg Fisher, the first voter in line when the arena voting site opened at 10 a.m. had already been to the election office and decided that was too long to wait.
“When I went by, it was about 8:30,” he said. “They were lined up out the door and around the building, so I figured I could either wait there an hour or come here to the arena . . . I think they’re much more prepared to handle stuff here at the arena than they are downtown. I think they’ve got a good setup here.”
He said he opted to vote on Day 1 “with all the shenanigans going on this year.”
There were 25 voting machines and four ballot-counting machines up and running at the arena, said Sandra Gritz, chief deputy election commissioner. The line appeared to be moving rapidly through the building.
Daniel Bustamante was near the end of the line when the arena voting station opened. The line surrounded the perimeter of a large grass area on the arena’s south side.
“I’m pretty sure who I’m voting for already so might as well get it over with,” he said. “It’s important . . . so we can make our voices known and get it over with and make sure it’s counted.”
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman decided this year to offer a mega center in an effort to alleviate long lines on Election Day in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Intrust arena was selected as the site because it’s spacious enough to handle large numbers of voters and machines, with room to spread out and maintain social distancing and minimize the chance of spreading the virus.
Even in the line outside, almost everyone was wearing a mask and standing at least 6 feet from the closest person.
Bustamante said he wasn’t worried about health. “Everybody here is wearing a mask, they’re all doing the right thing,” he said.