- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - They came early, many waited for hours and few appeared deterred as voters stood patiently in line by the hundreds in Southern California on Sunday to cast early presidential ballots at a handful of polling places that opened for weekend voting.

At one of the busiest, North Hollywood’s Amelia Earhart Regional Library, a line of several hundred patient people stretched down the sidewalk for nearly a block before snaking into the sprawling park that contains the library. From there, it continued for almost another block.

“It looks like people have something to say. I know I do,” audio engineer John Flood said with a tight smile. He noted he’d spent an hour in line and likely had another to go before reaching the door, but he added there was no way he wasn’t going to wait things out. This election, he said, was too important.

The weather, meanwhile, was chilly, windy and occasionally rainy. There was hardly a parking space to be found for blocks around. But the crowd was generally ebullient, some joking with poll workers about whether they could take selfies inside the voting booth as Justin Timberlake recently did. The answer: a friendly but firm “no.”

More than 3,200 people cast their ballots Saturday at five such centers across the county, and nearly 2,000 had done so by early Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder spokesman Mike Sanchez said. The North Hollywood polling place and another in Culver City were the busiest.

“We’re working as hard and as quickly as we can to get people in and out,” Sanchez said. “People are eager to get their voices heard.”

Nanette Goodridge, standing several dozen people behind Flood, was one of the eager ones.

“This is one of the most divisive elections I can ever remember. It will be nice when it’s settled, and that’s made me even more anxious to get out and vote,” said Goodridge, who has been casting ballots in every presidential race since Kennedy-Nixon in 1960.

After she votes, she said, she’ll spend the next nine days “just hoping for the first female president.”

This was the first time Los Angeles County offered expanded early balloting to its more than 5 million registered voters. People came from all over the county to the centers, something that required poll workers to pull different ballots for different races, and Sanchez said that contributed to the long waits. Another factor was an extremely long ballot that contains a U.S. Senate race, more than a dozen statewide voter initiatives and several local races.

Several people in the North Hollywood line said they had voted early in states like Florida and Texas and had never seen lines like this.

“I was worried about the long lines on election day. I think they may be shorter than this,” laughed Diane Sternbach, who was finally nearing the front door after 90 minutes.

She had turned back when she saw how long the line was Saturday, she said, but she decided to stick it out on Sunday.

So far in Los Angeles County, voters are casting ballots at a similar pace to 2008, Sanchez said. That year, turnout in the county was 82 percent as President Barack Obama was first elected president.

In neighboring Orange County, early voting numbers are also similar to 2008 levels, said Neal Kelley, the county’s registrar of voters. On Saturday, people were waiting outside early voting centers before they opened, he said. On Sunday, there was a steady stream of voters, but wait times averaged about 10 minutes at midday, he said.

Up north in San Francisco, waits to cast a vote at City Hall were at most a few minutes despite high turnout, said John Arntz, director of the city’s elections department. The office had a record 700 people vote on Saturday, Arntz said. That’s up from a little over 600 on the first Saturday that early voting was available during the November 2008 election.

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