Interviews with swing-state voters: A Virginia polling station at lunch time

November 6, 2012

In the lead-up to the election, Wonkblog has been interviewing voters in crucial swing-states. These interviews all come from Key Elementary School, the polling place for the Park Lane Precinct in Arlington, Va. 


The line to vote at Key Elementary School in Arlington, Va.

I spent my lunch hour there talking to people who were voting for president, trying to convince other people to vote for president, and the poll workers making it all come together. 

The stressed-out poll worker. Rudy Gonzalez is the precinct director of Park Lane Precinct in Arlington, Va. He arrived at the polling station at 4:30 a.m. to set up voting machines.

Sarah Kliff: How's turnout been this morning?

Rudy Gonzalez: We've been quite overwhelmed. We've had about 2,000 ballots cast so far this morning.

SK: How does that compare to 2008?

RG: It's just as crazy, pretty much.

SK: What kinds of issues are you running into with voters?

RG: We've had a few people who come in here and want to fill out a ballot, but this isn't their jurisdiction. We can't deny them a right to vote, so we'll give them a provisional ballot. But those won't even be counted unless they're contested.

We have a lot of people who are coming in as inactive, too.

SK: What does that mean?

RG: It means that they didn't vote in the last election, or they moved. Then they just have to fill out a new piece of paper. 

We've also had a few elderly voters in wheelchairs. They get to go to the front of the line, so then people will complain about that, why do they get to skip waiting. One woman threatened to call my supervisor about it. 

SK: How would you describe the atmosphere here?

RG: Stressful. 

SK: So why do you volunteer to do this? It seems like a pretty tough job.

RG: I don't mind that it's so stressful. I feel like I'm doing my civic duty. 

SK: When do you get to vote?

RG: I was hoping to do it early this morning, when I first got here at 4:30 a.m. to set up the voting machines. But there was already a line. So hopefully the line will die down at sometime, and I'll get to vote. I'll be here til about 10 or 11 p.m. tonight.

The Democrat deterred by lines. George Dougherty is a 42-year-old management consultant. 

Sarah Kliff: How did you vote today?

George Dougherty: I didn't vote actually.

SK: Why not?

GD: The lines were way too long. This was the second time that I tried today. I waited about an hour this time. The last time was 7:30 a.m. and I didn't even bother waiting. 

SK: Wow. Are you going to come back?

GD: Yeah, I'll come back after work. Hopefully the line will be shorter.

SK: Who do you plan to vote for?

GD: Obama.

SK: Why?

GD: For me it's a lot about the dynamics in Washington, the party dynamics. I think about the debt ceiling debate and how the Republicans acted during that.

SK: What do you think about Gov. Romney?

GD: You know, if he was running as an independent, I think I could vote for him. He used to do a lot of moderate, good things. But I don't think I can vote for him as a Republican.

The Romney supporter volunteering in a Democratic-leaning area of Virginia.  Stephen Thomas is a 58-year-old editor who lives in Arlington. He previously worked for the Republican National Committee.

Sarah Kliff: Tell me a bit about what you're doing out here.

Stephen Thomas: I'm handing out sample ballots to voters. I used to work at the RNC. I've always worked at this precinct. 

SK: How does turnout today compare to previous elections you've worked?

ST: It was pretty heavy this morning. Back in 2004, it went back all the way around the block. It was also pretty heavy in the primary between Obama and Clinton. It tends to die down around now, but then pick back up later. 

SK: Do you notice certain patterns of who shows up when?

ST: In 2004, there was really heavy turnout for Kerry in the morning. But then in the afternoon you started to see more and more Republicans show up. 

SK: How do you feel about Gov. Romney's chances here in Virginia?

ST: Very good. It's very close obviously. I think afterwards we're going to have a lot of discussion about the polls, and how well they did. That might be a story within the story.

SK: Do you think the polls will be proved wrong? Right now they show Obama leading.

ST: If I go by the people I know, who are in the Republican party, a lot of these polls  are based on 2008, and they might overstate turnout. That's what I understand, although I'm no mathematician. 

SK: I see you're wearing an anti-Obamacare hat. Do you think a President Romney would be able to repeal the law?

ST: I think there's going to have to be further debate. From a legislative perspective, you'll probably going to have to get appropriations involved. And there will probably be a Senate debate about how this does, or doesn't, get implemented.

The two-time Obama voter who waited two hours to vote. Sheri Nayeri is a professor in the liberal arts department at Northern Virginia Community College.

Sarah Kliff: I'm assuming from your sweatshirt [which had an Obama symbol] that you voted for the president today?

Sheri Nayeri: Yes, and very easily. 

SK: Why do you support him?

SN: All the things he's done really make a difference. There are things like the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Also his work on student loans is important to me, since I'm a professor.

SK: Did you ever consider voting for Romney?

SN: No, absolutely not. 

SK: What do you think would change about the United States if Romney were elected?

SN: I think the situation for women would definitely be different. There wouldn't be freedom of choice. I think he would cut all the programs that help poor people. This is a group of programs that are really helping average Americans. 

SK: Did you vote at this precinct last year?

SN: No, I was living in Texas. It's encouraging that I'm voting in a state now where my vote might make more of a difference.

SK: How long did you wait to vote?

SN: About two and a half hours. It doesn't seem so bad, especially when you hear about the people waiting seven hours in Florida.

The enterprising student council advisor. Patrica Jarvis is a teacher at Key Elementary School, where she advises the student council. She was staffing a station, near the start of the line, selling voters hot coffee and pastries.

Sarah Kliff: Tell me a bit about what you're doing out here.

Patricia Jarvis: I'm a teacher at Key and I work with the student council, which is sponsoring this sale. We wanted to raise funds, and also encourage students to do their civic duty.

SK: How have you encouraged students to do that?

PJ: We have some students helping us run the sale. One of my former students has been here, but she's helping a voter by watching her dog right now. 

SK: How's business been?

PJ: Really good. We got set up around 11, so a little late. We got the tail end of the morning rush, and are hoping to get afternoon voters too. 

 

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business
Next Story
Ezra Klein · November 6, 2012