It was a damp but determined group of voters that trickled into polling precincts throughout the day in Prince William and Stafford counties.
With rain alternating between a sprinkle and a downpour, polling sites across Prince William were reporting late afternoon numbers that were in the "light to medium" range, said Wally Covington, secretary of the county's Electoral Board. Covington said that rural areas of the county were showing the strongest numbers for voter turnout, especially in Gainesville, where the hotly contested race for the Board of County Supervisors seat was likely responsible for increased interest.
Covington said election officials were concerned about last night's commute, however, with the possibility that many voters were stuck on interstates and unable to return home to vote.
"I think the voters will come out in the rain, but it's a question of can they get home in time to vote," Covington said.
"They've been coming in pretty steady," said Darwin Jackson, chief election officer of the Potomac Community Library precinct in the Woodbridge District. Around noon, 227 of about 1,200 registered voters--or about 19 percent--had come in to vote. "So I'm past my low point already," Jackson said.
Election officials made early predictions that 30 percent to 40 percent of the county's 140,870 registered voters would turn out at the polls; Covington said he thought that number would likely be closer to 30 percent.
At Sinclair Elementary School in the Gainesville District, voters trickled in much of the morning. But the flow slowed considerably about noon, when rains picked up.
"It's much slower than I expected," said Juanita Floria, the polling site's chief election official, adding that about 12 percent of the site's registered voters had voted by 1 p.m. "There were more people coming through before the rain came, and I hope it lets up before too long."
Many of the day's voters said they came out of a sense of civic responsibility, but concern about schools also was noted as a reason to brave the rain.
"There's a lot of issues that are going on, and those people who you know are going right, you try to support them," said Daisy Lewis, who voted at Potomac Library. She cited the county's schools as one of her concerns.
"Right now, with things going on the way they are, we need more security in schools," she said.
Angela Cabell, voting at Bel Air Elementary School in the Neabsco District, also listed schools as a reason for showing up to the polls. She is a security assistant at Potomac High School.
"This [Standards of Learning] testing thing--some of the criteria they're using, as a parent, it's not very pleasing to me," Cabell said. The Standards of Learning tests are state-mandated measures that will determine whether a school is accredited by the state.
"I hope that the people who are elected follow through on what they say," Cabell said. "I just feel they should revise the standard."
Janet Rosenthal arrived at Sinclair Elementary shortly after noon to cast her vote, despite the fact that she wasn't feeling well and it was pouring outside.
"I wanted to vote on the education issue," said Rosenthal, a medical technician. "Education is our future for tomorrow, and we need to do something about it now."
Mattie Fallen, voting at Bethel United Methodist Church in the Occoquan District, said she braved the rain to go vote "because I can."
"I think everybody on the ballot is pretty much on the same page," Fallen said. She added that school crowding and school security were her top issues.
Without a high-profile race and with a cold, heavy rain beating down, turnout in Stafford County was steady but light around midday, election officials said.
Spurred by a desire for change, Cor-Nan Coldiron was one of those who braved the elements to cast her vote at the Rock Hill Rescue Squad.
"We need new blood in Stafford County," Coldiron said, declining to say specifically who she voted for. "We need new people in all offices. My biggest objection [to the current leadership] is the growth being allowed. I'm not against sensible growth . . . but it's just sprawl, and there's no county left."
Others made their way to the polls more out of a sense of civic responsibility than for any particular cause.
"It's my duty," said Linda Everetts as she headed into the voting booths. "I'm interested, but I don't know a lot about [the candidates], so I'll have to make an impromptu decision."
At Parkside Middle School, election officials said they had a steady stream of voters and expected to have more than 30 percent turnout yesterday. Outside, Mary Colleen Finnegan, 17, and Kelly Colgan, 12, were stumping for Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-District 29), a family member, telling passersby to vote him back into the state Senate. As rain whipped through the school's entrance, the two girls handed out fliers.
"It's a little cold out here," Kelly said, zipping up her jacket. "But people are voting, and we hope they vote for the right person."
In the Aquia District, which does not sport a supervisor's race, turnout was very light. The lone voter at noon, Geralyn Trujillo, said she voted because "it's our duty to do it."
"You can't complain about anything if you don't get out and vote."