African-American women were at the front of a line that stretched out the door Wednesday, for the start of early voting at the Davidson County Election Commission.
Representing the local chapters of a variety of civic organizations and wearing black, they noticeably made up the majority of voters who showed up within the first hour of the polls being open.
“We all decided we were going to be here the first day, dressed in black, business attire, because we thought this was serious business,” said Lorraine Greene, who wore pins for Delta Sigma Theta as well as the Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Polling locations will be open Monday through Saturday for early voting, until Thursday, Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 6.
Greene explained that the National Coalition of 100 Black Women regularly encourages women to vote early and that this year the Delta Sigma Theta sorority asked its members across the state to be among the first to vote on Oct. 17. Locally, Greene said, those organizations reached out to other groups, including the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and a number of other civic and church organizations for women, and invited them to join in the effort.
She estimated that around 150 women from the various groups showed up together for the opening of the polls Wednesday. And as the morning went on, they kept coming.
“We take this as serious business, and we know that people need to get out and vote,” Greene said. “We wanted to demonstrate that we were serious and that they needed to come on this first day. Not wait. Not wait until November to vote, but to vote early.”
They also wanted to make sure there weren’t any issues related to the state’s new photo ID requirement for voting. Getting out to vote early, Greene said, would leave voters time to obtain the proper ID, should a problem arise.
Vonda McDaniel, who wore colors and a pin representing Alpha Kappa Alpha, listed the state’s role in the history of women’s suffrage as a reason for the morning’s significance. On Aug. 20, 1920, Tennessee became the deciding 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
“It’s exciting as a woman to be able to participate,” said McDaniel, “particularly in the state of Tennessee, on such an important, important day.”