Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Report - South District Firehouse and Farm Hill

“Change” was the theme at District 11, Farm Hill Elementary School on Ridge Road, the major force bringing voters out to the polls. For many, it is a change in the economy they crave. One gentleman, when asked exactly what about the economy brought him out to vote, answered simply, “It sucks.” Another said that he, despite the sentiments of many financial analysts he has heard, believes strongly that the nation is in a recession. “I’m just looking for some change,” he said. “Put the money back where it belongs.” In his pocket? I teased. He smiled. “Exactly.”

Despite the negative feelings regarding the current state of the country, the atmosphere was jovial at both the Farm Hill and Randolph Road fire station voting sites earlier this morning. Perhaps it was the presence of PTO bake sales at both locations?

Lori Salazar, Keigwen Middle School PTO Co-President, who had manned the bake sale at South District Firehouse, expressed amazement at the line of “60 or 70 people,” when she arrived to set up before 7 AM. The flow of voters had been steady since then, and Salazar and her team of student volunteers, earning volunteer hours towards qualification for student of the month, remained in high spirits about the economy of their sale. Said Salazar, “We’re making good profit.” At least someone is!

The scene at Farm Hill was a bit more politically charged, with campaign volunteers lining the pathway to the school, staying well beyond the 75 foot mandatory boundary. Molly Nolan, a volunteer with Love Makes a Family, chose to pass out fliers asking voters to “Vote No to Question #1” in Middletown rather than her own voting site in Durham, due to the accessibility to voters. “Here I can be available to interact directly with voters and answer questions,” said Nolan, who warned that reversing the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality in Connecticut would reduce gay and lesbian residents to “2nd class citizenship.” A straight, married woman herself, Nolan has been working with Love Makes a Family for years because, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Other campaign volunteers at the site included Bob Fox, a 27 ½ year member of the Connecticut Employee Union Independent and a Connecticut Valley Hospital employee, who held a tall sign indicating the union’s slate of endorsed candidates but hid when I took his picture. “I’m not photogenic,” he claimed.

Josh (who requested I not use his last name), an organizer for Service Employees International Union out of Hartford, posted outside of the school in order to support candidates he believed would support union negotiated collective bargaining agreements, which he says will guarantee certain rights to union members, including layoff and pay rate protections.

Other volunteers were a bit less partisan. Dashaun Outlaw and Tony Woolard, both 11th graders at Middletown High School, had been at Farm Hill since 5:45 AM checking names of voters. The students were volunteering at the site through a school project for Ms. Adams’ American Politics class, which requires all students to work a certain number of hours for a political campaign, or involved in the voting process. Outlaw and Woolard began originally volunteering for the campaign of Matt Lesser, and then were given the opportunity to work the voting site.

The response to the new voting system, paper fill-in ballots rather than levers, was fairly even, with most voters saying that they preferred the levers, but understood the reason for the change. Craig Nenninger, who voted with wife Donna and 6-year-old twins Nicole and Matthew, said he liked the idea that the paper ballots kept a record in the event of a problem.

In all, turnout was higher than ever at both sites, and all present seemed hopeful that elections results would create a much needed change on both a local and national level.

No comments: