The Crestwood section of Springfield, one of Fairfax County's swing precincts, favored Sen. John F. Kerry over President Bush by a slim 14 votes, continuing a trend of close elections.
Crestwood voters, part of the 415th precinct of Fairfax County, gave Kerry 772 votes and Bush 758 votes. They have alternately favored Republicans and Democrats, though lately they have tended to vote Republican by the most narrow of margins in state and local elections. The unpredictable precinct was the subject of a Fairfax Extra story on Sept. 16.
Bill Clinton carried Crestwood in 1996. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore defeated Bush, but only by eight votes. The next year, however, the precinct went for Republican Mark L. Earley for governor over Democrat Mark R. Warner, also by an eight-vote margin. In the 2000 U.S. Senate race, voters favored Republican George Allen over Democrat Charles S. Robb, this time by only seven votes. And in last year's election for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, voters in the precinct cast 11 more ballots for Republican Mychele B. Brickner than for the Democrat who carried the county, Gerald E. Connolly.
On Nov. 2, a line already snaked down the hallway of Crestwood Elementary School when the polls opened at 6 a.m. Some people waited for an hour and a half, hampered in part by problems with broken-down touch-screen machines that were later repaired.
For many voters, the war in Iraq was the dominant issue.
Jeanine Ramos voted for Gore four years ago. But this year, the Federal Express courier voted for Bush.
"I don't think Bush has been given a fair shake with Iraq," said Ramos, 35, adding that all the men in her family have served in the military. "I don't want to think that people are dying for nothing. Bush started it, and he needs to finish it. I think there would be a law saying you can't change presidents in the middle of a war. Turning things over to someone else now would just make it harder."
But for the most part, voters stuck with the party they voted for last election.
"This has been a very disappointing administration," said Dean Regan, 57, a Springfield real estate broker who voted for Kerry, as did his wife, Susan, 53, a nurse. "We're going to try to defeat him one more time."
The Regans waited almost a full hour in line to vote and said they found the large turnout to be an affirmation of democracy.
"More people are energized than in any election that I can remember," said Susan Regan, who first voted in the Nixon-McGovern race in 1972.
Many Republicans and Democrats alike said they had voted in favor of the bond issues. They cited the need for better transportation and neighborhood libraries, and for improvements in the county's parks.
There were many split ballots. Even Democrats said they had voted to return Republican Thomas M. Davis III to Congress.
But it was clear that for a lot of voters, the congressional race and bond issues were secondary to the presidential election. Just a few minutes after casting their ballots, many voters said they could not remember whom they had supported for Congress or how they had voted on the bond issues.
Among those voting for the first time was Marcos Araya, 38, a construction worker. Originally from Chile, Araya said he has lived in the United States for 20 years and became a citizen last November specifically so he could vote in this election. He cast his ballot for Kerry.
"We need the change," he said.
Edmund Siwick, 86, a retired Air Force and civil service worker wearing a National Rifle Association cap, said he voted straight Republican. His vote was as much a vote against Kerry as it was for Bush.
"Kerry scares the hell out of me," he said. "He's no hero. I've been in three wars -- World War II, Korea and Vietnam -- while he was in for four months and wrote himself up for his medals. Bush got an honorable discharge. I think Bush is a better man. He's got principles. He didn't flip-flop. The other guy, who does he think he's fooling?"
But the vote of veterans was not uniform.
Norman Wright, 72, who fought in the Korean War and is a former federal and state employee, was a strong Kerry backer.
"I'm a veteran. Bush isn't," he said. "He was in the National Guard. I don't know how he got the idea to go over and pick on Iraq. We've never had a president go into a war without a reason. With his father, Saudi Arabia asked us to help out. Nobody asked this Bush to go into Iraq."
His wife, Icilda, 73, also said she favored Kerry because of Bush's action with the Iraq war.
"Our dear beloved sons here in America are over there dying without any reason," she said. "In addition, food prices are high and there are no jobs. In four years, this president hasn't done anything beyond invading Iraq."
For some voters, Bush's handling of Iraq cut the other way.
Kelly Garcia, 36, a nurse and mother of three who was helping with the PTA bake sale outside the polling place, said she voted the same way this year as she had in 2000 -- for Bush.
"I believe in his policies," she said. "I trust him. My husband's a police officer. My brother's a police officer. The way Bush handled 9/11, I felt secure. And I don't trust anything Kerry says. He fluctuated too much."