Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Buckingham Turns Out the Vote

At about 8a.m. voters were lined up out the building and halfway down the basketball courts at Barrett Elementary School. (Click to enlarge the image.)

About a dozen people were in line when Buckingham precinct polling officials arrived at K.W. Barrett Elementary School yesterday morning at 5a.m. Within hours, the line snaked out of the door, around the back of the building, and along the perimeter fence, stopping just short of the gate near the parking lot where party volunteers handed out materials, officials and voters said.

Alan Swanson, the chief of elections at the precinct, guessed the line to be close to a quarter mile at its longest.

“It’s a lot different than previous elections,” the veteran poll worker said.

Few glitches with the machines, speedy computerized voter registrar books, and about 20 poll workers (a record) kept the line moving throughout the morning.

By about 8a.m., the line was about one-third the length, ending on the basketball courts behind the building.

One man, moving off after voting, said that it took him about 90 minutes, but he had gotten in line near the ball field. Others inside, within 20 people of voting, said they had waited just short of an hour.

Poll officials use new computerized voter books to check voter registrations. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“When we had that mass, everyone was working really hard,” Mr. Swanson said. With the record turnout of volunteers, people were able to take breaks and stay fresh, he said.

After the morning rush, most of the day was a steady trickle of voters, but the turnout was “phenomenal” overall Mr. Swanson said.

Near 4:30p.m., Buckingham had logged about 2,600 voters, 1,700 on-site, and about 900 absentee. The official numbers are not available on the county’s web site yet, but the percentage might be in the 70s.

If these numbers prove accurate, they dwarf the voting in the last two national election cycles. In 2006, when Jim Webb raced for the U.S. Senate against George Allen, about 1,500 of the 3,300 registered voters, about 45 percent, went to the polls. In the 2004, Bush versus Kerry race, about 1,000 of the 1,800 registered voters, or 60 percent, went to the polls. Both were heavy turnouts for the precinct.

“This is a very active precinct,” said Carter Moore, the Democrat Precinct Captain for Buckingham. The precinct roughly spans from Arlington Boulevard to Interstate 66 between George Mason Drive and Glebe Road. Mr. Moore said the precinct has added about 15 percent more voters since 2006.

Yet for those people who arrived late in the day, it felt almost uneventful.

Mauricio Trujillo of Arlington Oaks, said rather than feeling historic, his vote just before 5p.m. felt the same as others.

Party faithful waited for more voters to show up late in the day. By 4:30p.m., the voting was down to a trickle, but 2,600 people had voted at the precinct. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“There was, like, no line,” he said.

Karin and Joel Paque also said the emptiness of the Barrett gym felt unhistoric.

“I definitely would have voted anyway,” even if it had not been an election in which either an African-American or a woman would enter the White House for the first time, said Ms. Paque, but she and her husband were hoping to find the spirit at an election night party they were planning to attend.

One first time voter who refused to give his name, said the atmosphere did not feel historic, but, “The whole election has seemed like it is to me….I got caught up in all that was going on this year.”

The county is reporting that nearly 51 percent of registered voters in the county voted:

  • Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden won decisively over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin. 51,912 to 22,904.
  • Mark Warner (D) crushed Jim Gilmore (R) for the open U.S. Senate seat, replacing the retiring John Warner. 54,783 to 18,683.
  • Jim Moran (D) handily beat Mark Ellmore 48,249 to 23,236.
  • Barbara Favola (D) easily beat John Reeder (Green) 46,629 to 15,797.
  • Both Libby Garvey, with 52,255 votes, and Emma Violand-Sanchez, with 46,512 votes, won the seats on the county school board. They ran unopposed.

  • Related stories and sites…
  • Arlington County Election Results 2008.
  • Buckingham Precinct Notes 2007. (What a difference a year makes!)
  • Precinct Notes 2006.

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