Thousands of Angelenos braved long lines and, in some cases, waited up to four hours to take advantage of early voting this weekend at half a dozen polling stations set up around Los Angeles County.
From West Covina to Culver City, voters woke up before sunrise for a chance to be the first in line to cast their ballots and beat the inevitable crowds ahead of Tuesday’s general election.
At the polling station in North Hollywood, the line began in front of the public library, where voters stood with beach chairs slung across their backs, headphones plugged in or with cups of coffee in tow. The trail snaked behind the building, around the park and down the sidewalk.
Jason Wesley drove by the hordes of voters on Saturday and decided he would wait until Sunday to cast his ballot. He arrived about 6:45 a.m. Sunday to try and avoid the line.
“I thought if I came an hour early, I’d be OK,” said Wesley, 37, who voted early because he will be out of town on Tuesday.
By 9:45 a.m., he was still waiting to vote.
“There’s a lot of planning that has to happen to vote early,” he said. “I still have 200 people in front of me.”
A record 19.4 million Californians are registered to vote in advance of the general election, according to the secretary of state’s office.
More than 78% of eligible state residents are registered, the highest percentage in two decades, and 1.2 million additional voters are registered for this presidential election compared with 2012, the office said.
In Los Angeles, officials said they were “seeing good turnout” at several of the county’s polling stations.
“People are very enthusiastic about the election,” said Brenda Duran, a spokeswoman for the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office. “They are being very patient.”
A total of 7,756 ballots were cast last weekend at early voting stations, Duran said. Sunday afternoon, voters broke that record.
More than 8,000 Angelenos voted on Saturday alone, Duran said, most of them in North Hollywood and Torrance. More than 25,000 people have voted early in L.A. County so far, she said.
Early voting stations across the county opened from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. over the weekend. The Norwalk office will also be open for early voting on Monday.
Sandy Santacreu, who lives four blocks away from the North Hollywood Regional Library, said she wanted to cast her vote early because she wanted to avoid traffic — and worrying about work — on election day. She took her place in line about 7 a.m., she said.
The atmosphere was peaceful rather than stressful, Santacreu said, and voters were helpful when others needed to briefly step away for coffee or food.
A couple feet away, voters sat under a large white tent and waited for their numbers to come up. As poll workers read from a list, a man in a striped shirt jumped up from his seat and yelled, “Yahtzee!” to a roar of cheers.
Those still waiting clapped each time workers called a number. Parents walking with strollers stopped by the tent to watch.
“4205?” one voter said after the number was announced. “That’s how many hours we’ve been standing here, right?”
Along the surrounding streets, drivers slowed their cars to a crawl to snap photos of the line and honked their horns in support.
Like many others, David Harvey arrived at the North Hollywood polling station just after dawn to find 100 people already waiting in line.
“All in all, it’s fairly well-organized,” Harvey, 57, said. “I have never seen such long lines. It’s an important election.”
The New York native said he was pleased to see the election, no matter how divisive, was “turning people out and not turning people off.”
Zoe Bergeron walked out of the library and up to her mother, Jane, with a grin. It was her first time voting, and after taking a government class the 18-year-old found the experience invigorating.
“I was nervous. ... I thought it was going to be more complicated,” she said, adding that voting was well worth the wait. “Seeing the line around the block, that was awesome.”
If anything, the large crowd created a sense of camaraderie, Jane Bergeron said.
“I’m thrilled to see a long line. The only time I had to wait in line was voting for Obama in 2008,” she said. “You had that sense that voting mattered. I get that same sense now. It’s an important election, and you feel that.”
For more California news follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini
2:15 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information from voters and the county registrar’s office.