Jessi Marker holds up the paper a poll worker gave her that says "last voter" on it. Marker, 23, was the last in line at Noble’s Senior Citizens Center Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

NOBLE — The line stretched out the front doors and down the dark driveway at Noble’s Senior Citizens Center when Jessi Marker arrived at 6:59 p.m. 

The 23-year-old had driven by her polling station earlier in the day but she left after seeing the line that wrapped around the building and down the side of Highway 77. 

Voters waited as long as 5 hours and 12 minutes to cast their ballot in Tuesday’s presidential election, according to poll workers there. Marker didn’t have that kind of time. 

She was on her way to work a lunch shift at Logan’s Roadhouse in Norman where she waits tables. Then she headed home to her 1-year-old daughter. She made dinner — pork chops, stuffed jalapenos and green beans — ate and then realized she didn’t want to wait another four years to have her say.

She left her daughter with her dad and jumped in the car. 

Marker arrived a minute before polls closed. A poll worker gave her a torn piece of paper with “last voter” handwritten in cursive. 

Even though she was eligible, Marker did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. She wasn’t registered. 

But when a worker at the tag agency where she renewed her vehicle tag in July asked if she wanted to register, she thought, why not. 

Now, she’s glad she did. 

“I feel like my vote matters,” Marker said while standing in line. “I’m kind of a whole new generation so I feel like it’s my opportunity to help change things.”

Jessi Marker, 23, voted for the first time in Tuesday’s presidential election. Marker said she was particularly interested in voting on State Question 805 because of a “personal connection.” (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

She arrived at the check in station around 7:45 p.m. and showed the last voter paper to the worker who signed her in. 

“That’s it,” said Cindy Pennington, who has been volunteering at the polling location for about seven years. Volunteers nearly jumped out of their chairs to begin closing duties. It had been a long, busy day with more than 1,000 voters through the door. 

Only four voting booths were set up at the site that morning, which was causing the long lines, workers said. They asked to move to a larger space where they could set up more booths but it took several hours to get the proper permission. Around 2 p.m. workers were allowed to set up in a larger room at the site and expanded their voting booths to 11, which decreased wait times, workers said. 

Cindy handed Marker her ballot and a sticker, told her to fill out both sides and don her sticker proudly. “You earned it,” Pennington said. 

Marker spent only a couple of minutes filling out her ballot. She inserted it into the ballot machine, put her sticker on the left side of her red fleece jacket and dropped her pen in the blue basket near the exit. It took her less than an hour from the time she arrived until she made it back to her car, parked on the side of the highway. 

Marker said she is glad she voted and she plans to vote again in the future, as long as the line isn’t five hours long. 

Jessi Marker, 23, voted for the first time in Tuesday’s presidential election. Marker said this election felt different than 2016 and she felt a responsibility to participate this time. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

Whitney Bryen contributed to this report. She is an investigative reporter and visual storyteller at Oklahoma Watch with an emphasis on domestic violence, mental health and nursing homes affected by COVID-19. Contact her at (405) 201-6057 or wbryen@oklahomawatch.org. Follow her on Twitter @SoonerReporter.

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Whitney Bryen

Whitney Bryen is an investigative reporter and visual storyteller at Oklahoma Watch with an emphasis on domestic violence, mental health and nursing homes affected by COVID-19. Contact her at (405) 201-6057...