Tags: poll | mccain | obama

Virginia Poll Worker Chronicles Somber Mood

Tuesday, 04 Nov 2008 01:00 PM

By John Royall with Dave Eberhart

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Editor’s note: Businessman John Royall shares with Newsmax his experience while volunteering at his polling place in battleground Northern Virginia. At 5:30 a.m., he arrived at the Waynewood School polls in the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County to begin his shift handing out Republican sample ballots. Royall, 60, has assumed this duty many times in the past, but he says it was unique this time.

Driving to the polling place through the quiet bedroom community of Waynewood, where many of the handsome homes are still owned by the original buyers, you cannot help but be struck by the stark division of thought in this historic race.

Every house on one side of the street has a Barack Obama sign in the yard, and every house and on the other side has a John McCain sign. This is a new phenomenon.

Arriving at the school, I noted an immediate difference in mood and temper from elections past.

Although every one of the voters was courteous, the biggest change from previous years was the somberness of all the voters. There was very little discussion in the line and virtually no smiles or laughter from voters of either party.

The opening line was about twice as long as in past elections. A queue of about 250 people was waiting for the 6 a.m. opening.

A remarkable change from past years was how few people asked for sample ballots from either political party. The voters seemed more aware of the candidates and issues than ever before.

At the time of my arrival, the Democrats had set up their tent next to the Republican tent and were offering free coffee and glazed doughnuts to voters from either party. Appropriately, the Democrats have blue chairs in their tent, and the Republicans have red chairs.

A reporter from The Washington Post pulled up about 7:45 a.m. and asked me about the volume of voters. About 8 a.m., a television news crew from British Channel 4 arrived. The reporter wanted to know whether there were any problems with voting machines or other incidents of note.

Only one voter had a problem with a machine. He apparently had hit a button twice by mistake and said that, thereafter, he could vote only for the bond referendum. I didn’t understand this problem because the machine gives you the opportunity to go back and change all your votes before you hit the final button.

Each voter was offered a choice of voting by machine or paper ballot. I was told that all paper ballots will replace the machines in the future.

The big buzz was that the polling staff and election officials expect today to reach an all-time record in numbers of voters, with the biggest rush coming between 3:30 and 6 p.m. The polling and election officials expressed concern about being able to handle the expected volume of people.

My charming Democrat counterpart, who was handing out sample Democratic ballots, told me she was a fiscal conservative and social liberal. I brought up our nation’s $53 trillion in debt and the fact that Congress is spending $1.5 trillion a year more than revenue from taxes.

I asked her how she reconciled that Obama has promised to increase federal spending by $1 trillion a year with her fiscal conservatism. She admitted that any government deficit spending is troubling and stated she had little faith in ever receiving her paid-in Social Security benefits.

There were no reports of political vandalism, such as the removal or destruction of political signs in previous years, in the Waynewood area this year.

Four years ago, I put a Republican presidential bumper sticker on my car, and the next morning discovered that someone had used a sledgehammer on it.

Go figure.

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