HOUSTON, TEXAS — Fortunately, it was nice outside.
At the supermarket chain Fiesta Mart in southwest Houston on Tuesday, the line to vote in the Democratic presidential primary got so long that voters were asked to wait outside so as not to interfere with shopping customers. The line for Republican voters was comparatively short, so those voters were able to stay inside.
Store manager Julio Vega told ThinkProgress that moving the line outside was a necessity. “They would be covering everything, and they’d make it hard for shoppers to get around,” he said. He noted that the voting line at Fiesta Mart has had to move outside before — but only during presidential elections.
“I saw it happening with Obama, the line circled around the building,” he said. “But for this [kind of election], the lines we’ve had, I’ve seen nothing like this before.”
There's a line inside the supermarket, this is line outside. Woman in front outside has already been waiting 50 min pic.twitter.com/j2epkWgJc3
— Emily Atkin (@emorwee) March 1, 2016
Mary Smith, the Democratic election judge at the precinct, said this was her fourth time judging at the supermarket. She was surprised at how quickly it filled up.
“It got crowded so fast,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, though, unless people decide to leave because they’re frustrated with the line.”
The separate long line outside for Democrats created some confusion for Republican voters, many of whom waited in the Democratic line outside for awhile before realizing they could just go inside and vote. If they weren’t told there was a separate line for Republicans, they would likely be waiting over an hour.
Houston resident Caroline Rowland, a Democrat, confirmed as much, telling ThinkProgress she got in line to vote at about 4:10 p.m.. She left the store with an “I Voted!” sticker at around 5:15 p.m.
Like many in line, Rowland said she “never waited this long” to vote during a presidential primary.
Most voters told ThinkProgress they would wait as long as it took to cast their ballot for their preferred candidate — though they expressed annoyance that they may have to miss out on plans they had scheduled. Roland Henshaw, a student at South Texas college of law, was at the back of the line at 5:00 p.m., and said he had class at 5:45 p.m. But he’d miss the class to participate in the election he said.
“I’ll wait it out,” he said. “But man. I should have done early voting.”