BANGOR, Maine — Greg Crupi is 27 and had never exercised his right to vote before Tuesday night. Eric Hardy, 37, has voted before, but hadn’t done so in at least six years.
On Tuesday night, both were part of the last-minute crush of Bangor residents who made the Bangor Civic Center lobby look more like the Walmart checkout lines on Black Friday.
Five minutes before the 8 p.m. voting deadline, about 100 people were in a line that snaked from the voter registration tables near the inside row of doors leading into the civic center to the front entrance and all the way down to the far wall of the lobby. Another 50 or so people who were already registered had come through the doors to head to the voting booths.
Crupi, a Rangeley native, was there at the insistence of his fiancee, a civic-minded social worker who felt it was important for him to vote.
“He’s voting because I made him,” said Brooke Hackett of Bangor.
But why so late?
“We worked all day, and then I had to get an RPM [cycling] class while he lifted and I’ve been telling him he has to vote, so here we are,” said Hackett, a case manager for Community Care. “The line actually has moved pretty fast and I’ve been amazed people have brought free coffee and pizza to give to people here.”
“I got in, voted, and got out in five minutes,” Hackett said while making a face and winking.
Hardy tried to register earlier in the day, but the line was about twice as long around 5:30 p.m. as it was near the deadline.
“I had my 7-year-old daughter with me and we hadn’t had supper, so we went home, had supper and I put her to bed before coming back,” said Hardy, an environmental engineer who moved to Bangor from Old Town six years ago. “The line was way down the hall and all the way back past here earlier. So I came back and made sure I brought a book. I knew it would be a wait, but I didn’t care.”
What was it that made voting so important for Hardy to put up with the human traffic jam after a six-year exile from the voting booth?
“Things need to change,” Hardy said. “I wanted to vote last time , but circumstances prevented me. This time I knew I’d be voting regardless of how long it took.”
Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin said Bangor has approximately 22,000 registered voters and estimated the total of new voters registered in Bangor on Tuesday to be around 2,000.
“It’s been steady pretty much all day,” said Goodwin, who has 20 years’ experience as the city clerk. “I haven’t eaten since this morning.”
Still, Goodwin — who estimated about 8,100 of Bangor’s registered voters turned out to vote Tuesday — said the high number of registrants wasn’t unusual for a presidential election year.
“We try to do everything we can to get people to register as early as possible or vote absentee, but we always get a lot of of late voters and voter registrations like this,” she said, rolling her eyes and smiling.