By Allana J. Barefield
As the sun rose on October 13, voters were already in line at polling locations waiting for the doors to be opened at 7 am.
Tears rolled down veteran journalist Roland Martin’s face as he pulled up to Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, prepared to cast his vote.
It was only 27 minutes into early voting and he saw voters who were already lined up.
“I’m a grown man, but I have no problem showing this type of emotion because I know what is at stake for our people,” said Martin, who in addition to being the host of the popular digital show, Roland Martin Unfiltered, is the vice president of digital for the National Association of Black Journalists.
The emotions hit Martin all at once, he said, when he noticed the amount of African Americans standing in line. Martin said he has voted all of his life but this year it is different because of so many issues, from the pandemic to police brutality.
“I know what Black folks have been through in this country,” the Houston native said, adding that while a frequent flier, because of COVID-19 he hadn’t been on a plane since February but he flew to Dallas where he is a registered voter, to cast his vote in this election.
After leaving Friendship-West, Martin cast his vote at the location where his parents are working the polls. “They impressed upon me the power of voting and civic engagement, and it’s only fitting,” Martin said.
Xiara Day, who is a graduate research assistant at Texas Southern University, also cast her vote right when Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston opened.
She saw a line wrapped around the corner with over 100 voters, but it didn’t make her turn around and jump back into her car. Day said she would like for everyone to take advantage of the early voting option.
“Voting early is essential,” Day said. “This option is very accessible as there are often multiple days of early voting so that every voter has a chance to cast their ballot.”
Celebrities are also getting in on the get-out-the-vote efforts.
Media titan Oprah Winfrey started calling Texans to see if they were set to cast their votes since she can’t knock on people’s doors. Winfrey wore a “Your Voice Matters” T-shirt and volunteered with politician Beto O’ Rourke and his nonprofit organization PoweredByPeople to spread the word to Democrats about early voting.
Actor, Jamie Foxx, took to social media to inform Texans specifically that early voting is essential. Foxx grew up in Terrell, TX, which is about an hour outside of Dallas, and he was passionate about voting in the two-minute video.
Right from the beginning Foxx grabbed the listeners attention with his familiar voice, “Texas, what up? It’s your boy from Texas.”
He went on to show the viewers ballots he had in his hand told them that early voting ends on October 30.
“This is the most important election of our lifetime,” Foxx said, as he encouraged everyone that he wants them to get their vote on and to not be upset if they miss out. “I don’t want to hear nothing ’bout we didn’t show up at the polls.”
Texan native Alexus Christian felt encouraged when she watched Foxx’s video. She said she was ecstatic to see a celebrity of his magnitude reminding everyone that voting is for the everyday person.
“Celebrities like Jamie Foxx have the influence to inspire generations of all ages and walks to be proactive in the country’s decision making, by ensuring that the right to vote is not just reserved for the seasoned and rich, but accessible to all,” Christian said.
Foxx also suggested that voters take their friends with them to go vote since the lines will be long and to talk about the latest news regarding the Cowboys or Texans.
He then explained that all voters should have some form of identification, such as a U.S. passport, Texas driver’s license or, U.S. citizenship certificate with photo, when they show up at their polling location.
But for local Lois Monk, having her identification didn’t prevent her from being turned away at the polls.
She arrived at the Duncanville Library before 6 am and had waited four hours to try to cast her vote before being turned away.
Poll workers explained to Monk that she had received a mail-in ballot and can’t cast her vote in person since she received the mail-in ballot. Monk said she never requested a mail-in ballot and is confused as to why she was advised to mail her ballot in or to wait until the mail-in ballot is canceled in the system. Monk is a senior citizen and diabetic and said she felt that there were efforts to discourage her participation.
She said she also was not pleased with Texas having only one drop-off box in each county.
“I just want to get out and vote,” Monk said. “Do they really expect, senior citizens, to drive all the way out there, are they crazy?”
In other areas, early voting has gotten off to a tough start with Georgia having voters waiting in six-eight hour lines and in Virginia, a cable was “accidentally cut” and the voter registration online system went down on the last day for citizens to register.