An hour after the polls were scheduled to close in Massachusetts, about 200 people still waited to vote in South Boston, many stuck in a line that wrapped outside the building in near-freezing temperatures.
“I feel like at this point I need to just wait it out,” said Casandra Zobal, the last in line, around 9 p.m. She arrived at the JF Condon School on D Street at about 7:45 p.m., knowing that it was going to be a long, cold wait.
“I came prepared,” she said.
This is the “all-time record” for the line, said Paul Greeley, a Southie native who has been voting at the B1 precinct every four years since he was 18.
Greeley attributed the long line to the growing population of the Seaport District, as well as increasing number of residents in South Boston, which were mixed in voting at the school.
Now almost 52 and living on Bolton Street, Greeley said he volunteered at the polling station for nearly 12 hours before getting in line himself at 7 that night. He hoped to get to the front of the line by 9:45 or 10 p.m.
“We’re really glad there was a great turnout,” he said.
Officials at the precinct said the long lines were not due to any procedural problems, but were mainly related to a grouping of too many residents into that specific voting location.
The group of about 10 people around him joked about the cold. One woman in line behind Greeley mentioned she tried to get in line twice earlier that day, hoping she would find it shorter.
“The average wait was an hour and 40 minutes,” he replied.
He said the line was wrapping around the block before the polls opened in the morning and did not let up during the day.
But there was no way he would have gone home without voting, even though work starts at 7:30 Wednesday morning.
“I’ll stand here as long as I have to stand here,” Greeley said. “It’s important to me.”
When asked who he was voting for, Greeley said, “I’m in organized labor so I think that is self explanatory,” in a reference to President Obama and Democratic US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Greeley said he thought the precinct could have done more to get the elderly and people with young children to the front of the line.
“It should have been more organized,” he said. “I don’t think they really thought this turnout would be as big as it is.”
Greeley stood in line with his wife, Kim, while their 10-year-old son stayed at a family member’s house.
Police were able to close the doors behind Zobal, the last person in line, at about 9:30 p.m., but only by winding the line of about 60 people through the lobby of the school.
“I don’t think it was worth it,” said a frustrated Chris Poulox, as she left the precinct with her partner, Joe Scully, at about 9:45 p.m.
The C Street resident said if having more volunteers would have been useful, she would have been happy to help and was disappointed not only with how long the line was, but how slowly it moved.
Poulox, who would not say who she voted for, enjoyed meeting “fun people” and getting free “goodies like coffee, hot chocolate. and soup. ... But we were freezing.”
With at least 30 people in front of her, Leonisa Avelino, a medical secretary, waited with her 5-year-old son, who attends the Condon school.
“It’s past his bedtime,” she said. “He has school in the morning.”
Avelino said that although there was a point where she thought seriously about calling it a night, she was determined to vote for President Obama and Warren. “Even though it probably won’t make any difference at this point.”
Yino Wang, 36, of A Street, said this is her first time voting at the precinct. Emerging from the building at almost 10 p.m., she said she got in line at 6:30 p.m., right after she left work.
She was impressed with the kindness of volunteers and other people who did what they could for those in the cold, including a food truck that served hot soup, coffee, and hot chocolate to volunteers and voters. A man who was in line at about noon brought at least 20 hand warmers for people stuck outside.
“It kept our spirits up,” Wang said.