The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, November 02, 2004  

Rittenhouse Readers Vote and Tell

To be updated throughout the day (except when I go out to vote and, later, hit the parties). Get blogged! Send your story. (Please include city and state. No names.)

Danville, Calif.: I had to walk a few short blocks to my polling place. Listening to the slow cadence of my shoes hitting the ground, the Eminem song -- "Mosh" -- popped in to my head. It grew louder and louder until I felt like I was going to kick down the door when I got there. Take back our country!

Paris (France): Took no chances . . . Registered for an absentee ballot last August in New Jersey before coming back to Paris, though I still harbor suspicion that Democratic ballots coming in from France are being burned on sight. Now my wife and I are huddled around the computer, listening to NPR election coverage and refreshing the CNN exit-poll site about every 30 seconds. Go Kerry!

Dublin, Ohio: An uneventful, but empowering experience! Only my second election, but my Ohio vote felt much larger this time. The smell of old-man Ben Gay and rich-lady overdosed perfume wafted across the lines. Child crying until the poll workers slapped one of those "I Voted Today" stickers across his mouth. Nothing for sale except houses (voting in a real estate office board room) and I do think a few people bought while we were there. Being a recent movee, I had to vote with the chads. I left none hanging, thank you. Haiku:

Chads drop free and clear
No challengers close to fear
Now the end draws near

Philadelphia: I managed to get out of work early and get to my polling place, Pine Street Pizza, at about 3:00 p.m., long before the typical after-work rush. Since we are new to our district and a little paranoid, we arrived with a backpack full of identification, pay stubs, and bills in each of our names. Fortunately they only needed to see our voter registration cards. I was voter number 534, which is pretty great because districts are pretty small in Philadelphia and the after-work rush is still hours off. Many of my co-workers spent several hours in line this morning and were late for work. That's a terrific sign. My wife told me she saw lines stretching blocks long on her way to work this morning traveling down Spruce Street. Everybody I've spoken to has actualy been thrilled about the wait and about voting for John Kerry. This is what democracy is supposed to be like.

Loxahatchee, Fla.: (From the West Palm Beach area.) This morning, I left my husband at home with my one-year-old twin sons, took my four-year-old son to preschool then waited 45 minutes in line to vote. The weather was perfect, the people were waiting patiently and the process went smoothly. Then I went home to stay with the twins while my husband went to vote. I watched them playing outside and thought of my other son at school and thought about the importance of today. I visualized the celebrations later this evening when Kerry is declared the winner. I may even have "prayed" to any deity or spirit / god or goddess that cared to hear my thoughts to make it so and spare us from another four years of this regime and salvage my sons future and the position of this country in the world. When I look at my three sons, I desperately hope that by the time they are old enough to vote, they live in a better world. And my heart breaks for all the mothers whose children have been sacrificed unjustifiably or who have to explain to their children why daddy isn't going to come home again.

Los Angeles: Co-worker story. First time voter, recently became a citizen after 22 years of living in this great country. Felt this was the most important election during his life in the states. From Iran originally. As an ex-Republican activist, he felt that he needed to atone for his sins. That's why he made sure he voted this election, and not for a Republican he wanted me to be sure to add.

Philadelphia: Pennsylvania is Kerry country. My precinct is in a "transitioning" (okay, gentrifying) neighborhood. Sure, there are some "young voter" types, but I haven't been kept awake by "college student" parties yet. But when I showed up at my polling place at 8:00 a.m., the line was about 50 people long, and at least half of them were "young voters." And it was pretty obvious that these folks were Kerry voters. Hell, there were even a couple of black hoodies! (Thanks, Marshall!)

Washington, D.C.: Here, in a non-state with no real congressional representation, no senators, no governor, and where a Democrat will always receive more than 60% of the vote for president, a place where, in short, there is really no reason to come out to the polls other than to vote for the (hamstrung by Congress) city council and (utterly hopeless) school board -- the line to vote snaked through the Reeves Center at 14th and U Streets, doing a circuit around the atrium and extending out the revolving door to the street. The wait at 8 a.m. was about an hour. Nobody left the line. Nobody complained. Everyone looked serious but in good humor. Afterwards, throughout downtown, people with "I Voted" stickers smiled at each other, nodded, ometimes engaged strangers in talk. Every person I talked to reported huge numbers of people at he polls. Why would so many people in a jurisdiction denied congressional representation, with few local offices to fill, with a dead certain presidential outcome, take an hour or more to vote today? There seems to be an overwhelming feeling that this one is important, and that is a good thing. It is.

Chicago: I went to the polls at 7:15 a.m. and there must have been 30 people in front of me. I waited about 45 minutes and there was a steady stream of people coming in the whole time. This is the first time I've ever waited in line to vote.

Philadelphia: (This is me.) Trekked out to vote at 3:00 p.m. at Moore College of Art & Design, a time selected to avoid taking up the time for working people. No line at that dead hour. Extremely helpful and friendly officials. Quick ballot. For me it was a straight Democratic ticket (Kerry-Edwards, Rep. Joe Hoeffel for Senate, Rep. Chaka Fatah for Congress, et al.) and a "yes" vote on the initiative. Interesting: Just outside the room set aside for voting there were four chairs. Before my house-mate and I voted the chairs were empty, when we finished voting two of the chairs were festooned with Bush-Cheney and Arlen Specter stickers, brochures, and other Republican campaign paraphernalia, just like those in the hands of Bush-Cheney supporters in front of the college. My house-mate alerted the appropriate election official, who promptly removed the offensive material, tossing it in the trash where it belonged. He confronted the Republicans who denied placing the material on those chairs, blaming "supporters." Funny, my house-mate and I were the only voters there and we are decidedly not Bush-Cheney-Specter supporters.

Grand Rapids, Mich.: Left work just before 11 a.m., stopped home to collect my S.O. and go vote. Ended up waiting a few minutes for our sort-of slacker neighbor who went with us too. We're in what I'd call a working-class neighborhood on the northeast side of town, been hit hard by the economic downturn. Don't know what the typical turnout is for our ward/precinct, but I can't recall waiting more than a few minutes to vote in previous elections. The line was literally out the door when we walked up; almost an hour later -- and after assuring I left all chads behind! - I fed my straight-Democratic, with a "NO" vote on the anti-gay marriage amendment, ticket (#522) into the ballot box. Never seen such a crowd, or such a mix of faces: men and women of all ages and colors, most quietly, but good-naturedly, waiting to cast their ballots, some obviously for the first time. No one left before voting, and the line was just as long when we got done as when we got there. I'll say it again: People don't wait in lines like that to support the status quo. The S.O. is now working to get out the vote for MoveOn. I'll be picking it up when I get off work at 5:00 p.m. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it, and I can't stop thinking that we're going to wake up tomorrow with a clearly, duly-elected President Kerry.

Riverdale, N.Y.: We voted shortly after the polls opened in the Bronx. Typical crowd, but much more enthusiastic than the last election -- practically giddy. I love our spot: You get coffee while you wait, and there's a bake sale with bagels and sweets. The smell of coffee wafts over, and you see neighbors and say hello. We still vote with the same old-fashioned levers that have been used forever, you pull the level like you're on a game show, then snap the dials for your candidates. I think I saw "Tippicanoe and Tyler Too" graffitied on one of them. Actually, with all the political parties that New Yorkers get to choose from I'm surprised they haven't brought back the Whigs. Wrote a little voting day haiku:

Voting for coffee
Pull the lever to the LEFT
Sharp snap for freedom

Zanesville, Ohio: My 21-year-old son and I went down to the local firehouse to vote at 7 a.m. No line, no challengers. The same ladies have worked the polls for the last 22 years, and one said, "You know you're getting old when your kids start voting." Thanks a whole lot! Then I took two friends to vote. One lady hadn't voted since Kennedy, and she wanted me with her to make sure she didn't mess up. The other lady was about to hang clothes out on the line. "I can't go vote, my clothes!" I told her I'd help her hang them up but voting comes first. "My hair!" I told her to hurry up, I'm driving, and she's going. One precinct did have a challenger present, sitting in a chair with a clipboard. This was in a predominantly black neighborhood. There was a bit of a line there, not bad. And now it's raining so I don't have to hang clothes on the line!

Wyckoff, N.J.: I voted this morning in my very Republican New Jersey suburb -- Can you believe three Republican town councilmen are running unopposed?! -- but in the school parking lot I saw only Kerry bumper stickers!

Arlington, Va.: I live in Arlington, known in some circles as the "People's Republic of Arlington" -- a blue part of a red state. The polls here opened at 6:00 a.m. I arrived at my polling station at 5:58 a.m. and was number 43 in line with more and more people arriving every minute. A huge cheer went up when they opened the door to the church that is serving as my precint polling station. It took almost 30 minutes to make my way across the parking lot and into the doors. All the while, more and more people were arriving and the line quickly stretched out of the parking lot and down the street. Everybody seemed to be in very good humor considering the the wait and the early hour. Campaign operatives from both parties would occasionally go down the line offering democratic or republican sample ballots. I noticed very few people taking the republican one. Once inside, everything went very smoothly. I was sort of hoping to be challenged by a GOPer -- but, hey, I'm just a white yuppie guy in a white yuppie neighborhood -- no such luck. We used electronic touch-screen voting, which I've used before, but the screen seemed especially sensitive. I've heard stories of early voters who complained that the screens recorded the wrong choice, and I'd heard it explained that women's long fingernails were often responsible for that, and after seeing the sensitivity of the touch screens today, the long fingernails explanation makes perfect sense. I was looking for the ballot choice of whether I want Bush and Cheney to be dragged away in chains or just drawn and quartered on the spot, but I couldn't find that section of the ballot, so I settled for just voting for Kerry for President. I've looked forward to this day for four years -- and it was tremendously satisfying. On the way out, I noticed that the line had now grown across the parking lot, down the street, around the corner, and down that street and was quickly approaching the next corner. I also noticed the Republican operative walking up and down the line forlornly peddling her Republican sample ballots and getting no takers. I hope she has a real long day.

Westland, Mich.: I got to the polls at 6:50 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. opening. It was raining and cold out, but luckily they let the line wind down a long hall way at the elementary school so we could be protected from the elements. And it was a long line when I got there. It was almost an hour later by the time I got to actually vote. In fact it was exactly 7:50 a.m. when I got back in my car. The lawyers were obvious with their slicked back hair and expensive suits as they watched over the shoulders of the election officials, especially whenever an African-American voter came to the table. We have electronic touch screens and I've used them before in two other elections. So no surprises there. I was pleased to see so many Libertarians running for so many offices and I very proudly cast my vote for Michael Badnarik for president. In my opinion, I would only be wasting my vote if I voted for someone I did not think should be president. Oh, since I hate the woman who was running for county prosecutor and since no one was running against her, I wrote in my own name. I don't think I'll win.

Savannah, Ga.: My husband J--- and I brought our 11-month old daughter to witness voting in her first presidential election. It was at the firehouse (she has already visited this polling place twice during the primaries and a run-off). John was expecting chaos but I'd never been to this polling place with more than one other voter, so my expectations were less dramatic. Despite the small number of people voting (never more than four or five people lined up for the four booths while we were there) there was confusion regarding where to stand, where to go, who was there first, etc. The poll workers were reluctant to move from their seats to direct traffic or to assist a woman with a walker who was having trouble with her touch screen (instructions were shouted to her and ultimately another voter went over to help her). We used touch screens (no paper trail); however, the instructions on the walls of the polling place illustrated how to color in the circle next to the name of the candidate of your choice. When we left the firehouse, I felt a mix of elation and dejection. Remember those battleground states that the candidates visited countless times over the past months? Georgia isn't one of them. Remember Zell Miller? He's one of "us."

Champaign, Ill.: I'm a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and my dorm is in Champaign. I voted at 8:30 a.m. at a dorm next to mine. I only had to wait a couple of minutes to vote -- the major hold-up was waiting for the poll workers to find my name on the rolls. I didn't have any problems with challenging, since my hall's residental director was one of the poll workers. I voted, then went and passed out voter guides on the quad for a few hours. When I went to lunch in a different dorm, the line was at least 20 people long there. A lot of people have voted already here, but there's still expected to be a major crunch later this afternoon.

West Palm Beach, Fla.: I voted with no problems today. I met a woman, a new citizen, who was trembling with joy at the prospect of her first American election. I have no idea who she intended to vote for, but I was so excited for her. The only political folks I saw were a couple Kerry supporters out front with water, snacks and umbrellas (for the sun!). My wait was about 20 minutes, but at the other precinct (in the same church), people were waiting longer. This was first thing in the morning. And thank freakin' god, this is Theresa LePore's last election. My home and voting place are both about two miles from LePore's office.

Boston: No problems voting here in Kerry Town. Longer lines than usual, of course, but nothing drastic. I saw some poll workers helping an older man who was having some difficulties reading the ballot. Hats off to the thousands of nonpartisan volunteers who are helping to make this day possible. And see you all in Copley Square for the victory celebration tonight!

Akron, Ohio: Had a 25-minute wait when normally there is none. The woman in line in front of me came out to vote for the first time in 20 years . . . For Kerry. Ain’t democracy grand?!

Santa Monica, Calif.: A one-hour line to vote at my local polling place in the park. Usually a stroll right in and out, but nobody complaining or leaving, even in this supposedly safe state. My wife and I brought our two sons, age five and 20 months. My wife let my five-year-old puch her card for president. I told him he can always tell people he voted in his first election for Kerry!

Jackson, Mich.: I decided to vote before work so I got up at 6:00 a.m. to beat the crowd. Not that it's a problem, I've been voting in the same precinct for 12 years and have never had to wait at all. I about crapped my pants when I pulled in to the school parking lot. It looked like the middle of a school day there. There were cars everywhere, lots of young first time voters too. Bush is toast!

New York: Voted at Cooper Union in Manhattan. More people than usual, no problems. My wife and I felt exhilarated and powerful.

Trumbull, Conn.: I got to the polls when they opened at 6:00 a.m. The line was out the door, but it moved pretty fast -- about a half hour. This is the first time at this polling place I've not walked right in and voted without a line. The turnout was so good that I actually believe for the first time since moving to Connecticut ten years ago that I actually think we might have a shot to unseat Republican Chris Shays! I've always thought it's a shame to live in such a Democratic state and have to have a Republican representative! Here's to wishing for a Democratic sweep here!

Los Angeles: Well I'm back from the barber shop at the corner that is my polling place. I live in the "Wilshire Vista" district of Los Angeles, which my boyfriend Bill refers to as "North South Central." Took an hour. HUGE line, and being a predominantly African-American neighborhood you can imagine how everyone was voting. The (white) gay guy behind me was wearing a "Stop Bush" t-shirt and said to me, "Do you think this is OK?" I said, "Are you kidding?" One of the shop's regulars was in Full Aria, reading the entire Bush administration like the telephone directory. And the woman at the desk just let out in full cry "Stay Out of the Bushes!" My prediction? Kerry in a landslide!

Madison, Wis.: This morning at 9:15 a.m. my wife and I went to our polling place, the smallish gymnasium of an elementary school. Our wild guess is that ours is the polling place for about 2,000 people. A poll worker said while we waited in a 10-minute line that he had already seen 700 people come to vote since polls opened at 7:00 a.m. There has been a mood in heavily Democratic Madison ever since Kerry (and Springsteen) drew 80,000 people to a rally downtown last week. We feel like we're in on a secret: We're going to turn out in numbers that no pollster, no pundit, and no political operative can possibly have imagined, and we're going to tip the state for Kerry by a margin that no number of disputed ballots in Milwaukee can change.

Minneapolis: Voter turnout in Minneapolis is HUGE. I was the 521st voter at 8:30 a.m., only one and a half hours after the polls opened. I live in South Minneapolis and this is a very liberal area. We have an excellent congressman, Rep. Martin Sabo (D), which ensures there will be very few split tickets. I drove around for a while after I voted and I went by four other polling places in South Minneapolis and each one had lines out the front door and into the parking lot.

Palo Alto, Calif.: I was second person in line at local school. By the time I left more than 30 people lined up in a precinct where I have never seen more than ten people massed at one time. Two people dropped off absentee ballots and another got a provisional ballot in the five minutes I was waiting to vote and return the ballot. Electronic voting, but you were at least able to look a final result screen to see if the information matched the individual selections on the previously pages. Smooth sailing. Lots of signs in the neighborhood, almost all KE04.

Salt Lake City: The state that gave George W. Bush the largest margin last time was hopping, at least at my polling place. I have never seen a line that long. Voting registration is up over 20 percent statewide, 15 percent in my county, which is the most populous in Utah and home to about a million people. I voted for Kerry and my lone Democratic congressman, Jim Matheson.

Raymore, Mo.: A friend reported a long line all this morning. I went at 9:30 a.m., usually no one in line, but I had a wait of only 40 minutes. This is usually Bush territory, but I was very happy to see all of the Kerry/Edwards yard signs leading up to my polling place. A marked improvement over the lack of Gore signs four years ago. No exit polling, no vote challengers, just a lively spirit in line. God bless our democracy. Please don’t wait too late, but if you’re in line when the poll closes, you have the right to complete your vote.

Queens, N.Y.: The polling place is way busy and kinda tense, and boy are the voters fierce. A woman who got redistricted threatened to have the supervisor of the polling place (whose fault, in fairness, it wasn't) arrested if she didn't find her name in the book. Also, when you say "Way to exercise your rights in a constitutional democracy" and high five your husband after he exits the booth, it makes the pollworkers giggle. Also the cop.

Spring City, Pa.: Just back from voting. It was completely manual -- a la punch cards. When I got there, two of the election officials were my neighbors, as in next-door and across-the-street. The guy from across the street has the only Bush sign up on the street, and we have a Kerry sign. When we said hello I could tell we both knew we were supporting the "other side," but I knew we'd be good neighbors anyway. I took a long time with the ballot, wondering if I could be confident that this would really cast my vote. The box looked like something used in a kindergarten class to collect flash cards or something. Ultra low tech. But, as my husband pointed out, there's a paper trail and why should the county put money into a computerized system when it is used so infrequently.

Milwaukee: I walked my 5-year-old daughter to school this morning, then hung around the gymnasium polling place for half an hour. Long lines, longest I've ever seen for voting. Heard some grumbling about Republican lawyers checking registration info, but nothing serious.

Philadelphia: The turnout is unbelievably heavy: almost 300 in a division of 900 by 10:15 a.m. This is, by my count, the 24th election and/or primary I've worked in this Center City division, and I've never seen anything like this. Everybody . . . Democrats, Republicans, Greens, even a registered socialist!

Bala Cynwyd, Pa.: There was a 52-minute wait in my precinct between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. This is the first time there's been a line at that hour according to those who've been voting there for years. A total of 325 voters by 10:45 a.m., also a record.

Tallahassee, Fla.: Went to vote when the polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and there was a line already. It took a little over an hour to vote. The optical reader kept jamming as well. I voted to bring accountability back to the White House: I voted for John Kerry and John Edwards.

Lexington, Mass.: Twelve years ago, I stood in a long line with my son J---. It was his first day of school in first grade. Today, we stood in another line at the same school. And he voted for the first time. Sometimes, life is so great you can hardly believe your luck.

Houston: It was still raining very hard this morning when I woke up, and I was worried that the rain would keep people from turning up at the polls. When I got to my precinct around 8:15 a.m., the line to vote was all the way around the room. The person who checked me in told me that it had been much longer earlier. I've voted in this precinct for three years now, and I've never seen it so crowded. I stood in line for about 45 minutes. For some reason, no one turned on the air conditioning, and there was a lot of grousing about how hot and stuffy it was in the parish hall that serves as our precinct, but no one left. There were eight booths, probably 30 or so races and three city initiatives. We use the eSlate machines, which are electronic but not the touch screen machines. There's a little wheel that you use to make your selection, and I didn't have any problem at all casting my ballot. Two or three people weren't on the registration list when they checked in, so they had to fill out provisional ballots, and the election judges seemed pretty busy. They kept on calling HQ to ask questions. I was exit polled when I left.

New York: Nothing interesting. I voted without incident because I went at 11 a.m. The lines weren't bad, but I asked and they said that at 6 a.m. the lines were out the door.

Los Angeles: I voted. I'm all strung out on Kerry/Edwards mojo and now I have to go to work for my rightwing fundi Christian boss (who is really nice to me and we never go near politics, religion or philosophy). Yay! Yours in Kerry/Edwards.

Philadelphia: After waiting in a 45-minute line to vote this morning, I finally reached the check-in desk. There were three women working there, each with their lists and cards. In front of them was an American flag, and a Bible. I checked in and voted, then asked the man watching the machines about the Bible. He told me that it came with their package of election materials. That they all had to be sworn in to work at the election, and that the Bible was displayed in order to remind voters of their solemn duty as voters. Is having the Bible displayed there constitutional? I found it offensive, and believe it might be considered a form of intimidation to some.

Washington, D.C: Eastern High School, 16th St. N.E. What usually takes ten minutes to vote took 40 minutes this morning. Heavy turnout in D.C. At the last minute, I swung to Bush on security issues. Just kidding, I voted to send the clown home.

Stamford, Conn.: I will be voting after work. I went to my district this morning and the wait was over an hour. I’ve been going to the same place for over 20 years and this was the longest line I have ever seen.

Vote and tell.

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