By Nadine Sebai and Allen Young
It was nearly an hour after polls closed on Tuesday, but Sacramento State student Jesus Avila was still waiting to vote on campus — and he was keeping track of how long with a timer.
“Waiting in line for two hours, 33 minutes, and 20 seconds,” he said.
Avila was not alone: Sacramento County reported that some voters waited for several hours at multiple polling centers, from the Barbara Morse Wackford center in Elk Grove to The California Museum in downtown and the Modoc Building on Sac State’s campus.
Students at Sacramento State are waiting three hours in line to vote.— Nick Miller (@NickMiller510) November 7, 2018
“I’d wait another three. We’re doing this,” one student said.
Here’s a time lapse video of the line — which is longer now.
California’s polls close in an hour.#ElectionDay2018 pic.twitter.com/7QMyXexuag
County election office spokesperson Janna Haynes was hoping people would take advantage of early voting. “But we still saw a huge surge of people coming to the vote centers today on election day despite the fact that they’ve been open for up to 11 days already,” she said.
At least one candidate tried to benefit from the long lines, however, by lobbying for votes — which turns out can be legal.
The law is simple: If you're waiting to vote and are more than 100 feet from the front door of a poll, anyone can come up to you and try to convince you to vote one way or another.
It’s a sort of loophole that state Senate candidate Eric Frame exploited on Tuesday at the Sacramento State voting center: CapRadio encountered him electioneering, and he noted that he was “way past” 100 feet from the voting center.
Haynes confirmed that this is legal. But she also said the county received complaints about Frame’s campaign, including one involving people aggressively petitioning for votes inside a polling station.
“We do encourage people to call us with a complaint if they feel like the electioneering is deterring them from wanting to vote,” she said. “That's absolutely not what we want to see.”
Students waiting in Sac State’s line, which at its peak was more than three hours, said they witnessed people give up and leave. But everyone who was in they line by 8 p.m. was allowed to vote.
Voting-center workers did not pack up and leave until midnight.
Why did so many students decide to vote at at the last opportunity? Most told CapRadio they’d already registered, but wanted to vote in person, since it was their first time. A few explained that their homes are in other counties, so they needed to fill out provisional ballots. And many said they felt compelled to vote after a barrage of posts about voting on Instagram.
Despite the wait, the mood was festive as students crawled toward the ballot box. Some said they made friends, others worked on laptops, several ordered food delivery — and everyone got excited when volunteers brought free pizza.
Nick Miller contributed to this report.