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11-6-12: Time to Choose
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This morning Marylanders are voting for President--and several hot-button state issues. Twelve percent of those eligible voted early--a record. Will issues like same-sex marriage, tuition for immigrants, casinos, and redistricting drive record turnout today? And are things runnings smoothly at polling places? This morning we'll hear from voters, and from WYPR reporters who have been to polling places and election monitoring hotline headquarters around the state.
For our 9:00 a.m. broadcast, we sent some of Maryland Morning’s producers out to polling places in Baltimore City.
Jamyla Kay talked to 53-year-old Rorena Suell of Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood. Suell was the first person in line at George Washington Elementary in southwest Baltimore; she arrived at 5:50 a.m.; Jamyla spoke with her just before the polls opened.
Suell: I pretty much know the way I’m going with the election process all the way around.
Kay: And do you wanna say who you’re voting for?
Kay: And on the other ballot questions did you have a chance to read over those?
Suell: I read over all of them.
Kay: And did you find they were clearly written?
Suell: They were very clearly written, so I know exactly which way I’m going.
Kay: So you’re ready for 7 o' clock?
Suell: I’m so ready for 7 o' clock.
Jamyla also spoke to 30-year-old Rob Joswiak of the Ridgely’s Delight neighborhood. “Well of course it’s a presidential election so you’re going to get a big turnout, but there’s a lot of both city and state issues that, you know, everybody needs to vote on,” said Joswiak. “Particularly the gambling one: I enjoy playing poker and I don’t have kids, so the debate’s pretty simple for me.”
When asked about the presidential options, Joswiak replied, “I don’t like either candidate. I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.”
Rob Joswiak: childless poker enthusiast, libertarian, someone who doesn’t fit into the voter blocs often discussed in the political media!
There’s a lot on this ballot beyond the presidential and Congressional races. Jamyla wondered whether voters found the language for all the ballot questions to be clear. Ridgely’s Delight resident 29-year-old Kevin Cruise found that “Yeah, they seemed to be what was reflected on the sample ballot.”
The questions didn’t seem as clear for 27-year-old Kenny Warren. “I think most of them are clearly written,” Warren said. “I think the one about the congressional redistricting is a little hard to understand. I don’t still entirely think I understand it. I’m gonna try and vote with my gut, I guess.”
We found, of course, plenty of Obama voters in Baltimore City…though for some, enthusiasm is undercut by the process. Producer Matt Purdy went to the Waverly Branch Library on 33rd Street and talked to 31-year-old Joel Urbanovich of the Abell neighborhood.
“I’m for Obama,” Urbanovich said, “but a little weary of all the political rhetoric this time. Maybe it was just as bad in 2008, but I think there was a lot of excitement about the potential for change in politics, and I don’t think we really got it, but I also think it’s possible at this point, given the divisions between the parties. And I feel like on both sides of the aisle it’s been pretty divisive, and I don’t know that I’ve heard much of anything, in any of the ads or any of the debates, that even sounds remotely factual.”
34-year-old Aisha Campbell of Waverly was enthusiastic about President Obama…but a little overwhelmed by the many ballot issues beyond the presidential race. “There were a lot of things mentioned on the ballot," said Campbell. "A lot of them I can’t necessarily say I cared about. The only one that I think I necessarily paid attention to was [question] six for marriage. I just feel like everyone should have that opportunity. And I don’t even really think it should be something we voted on, I just think it’s a right, but I voted yes.”
Producer Stephanie Hughes was at John Eager Howard Elementary School in Reservoir Hill. Lenny Johnson lives in Reservoir Hill—he’s not too happy about where his vote goes once he casts it. “You know you like to think that your vote actually counts, but with the Electoral College and stuff you know, it almost feels like we’re giving a suggestion,” Johnson said. “Ohio gets more electoral votes, and what gives them more? I’m for the popular vote, but we know that’s not how it goes. So I’d like to see the best person get in there, and if the popular vote wins, I think that should be who wins, but the electoral thing makes me nervous.”
Sheila Christmas also lives in Reservoir Hill—she had this to say about question six: “Everybody’s talking about ‘Oh don’t do this, don’t do that. Don’t vote for this, don’t vote for that.’ You know you vote the way you feel, and I say to each their own. If you’re gay and you want to be married, fine. Do you. We don’t know who’s married. We don’t know whether it’s two men, two women, a man and a woman, so you do what you want to do.”
We also talked to members of the WYPR news team. WYPR news director Joel McCord was at a polling place in Anne Arundel County. Here’s our transcript:
JM: Good morning Sheilah, how are you?
SK: I’m fine how are you?
JM: Oh wide awake and ready to roll.
SK: Where exactly are you?
JM: I just left Arundel High School in Gambrills, it’s a little bit south of Fort Meade.
SK: Set the scene. What’s the line like? Is it moving quickly?
JM: Packed. Packed and jammed as they say. I just talked to a woman who said it took her better than an hour to get to vote, and she said usually it’s ten minutes in and out. So, a pretty heavy turnout this morning.
SK: Have you talked to any election judges?
JM: Yeah, an election judge here and down at Rolling Knolls Elementary just outside of Annapolis. Both of them have talked about the heavy turnout and said that the number of ballot questions -- 22 in all here in Arundel --7 state, 15 county questions – seem to be slowing things down, and that people are taking a real long time to vote.
SK: Talking about heavy turnout, how do they feel it compares to other years, when there’s a presidential race on the ballot? I mean the vote is always heavier when there’s a presidential race on the ballot.
JM: To them it seems to be a little heavier, but most of them are talking about the ballot questions, more so than the presidential race.
SK: What’s happening outside?
JM: Outside the polls, it’s interesting in Rolling Knolls in Annapolis there was one young woman, a Republican Catholic, handing out literature for Question 6, the same sex marriage ballot question. And that was it. People trickling out of polling places. Elsewhere: packed parking lots, people parked out on the roads, that sort of thing. And there’s nobody here in Arundel doing any electioneering which I have to say surprises me.
SK: It’s a frosty morning but usually the parties get their poll workers out. Have you encountered any irregularities?
JM: None that we’ve encountered thus far. Here at Arundel there was one machine that wasn’t working when they turned it on. They had to get some repairs on that one real quickly. There was one woman who showed up to vote, her name was on the written rolls, the paper rolls, they didn’t have her on the electronic machines. It turns out she had been out of the country for a while and had failed to update some information. But she got a provisional ballot and she can vote with that.
SK: Joel, thanks. Joel McCord is WYPR’s news director. Joining us now on the phone is Mary Rose Madden.
SK: Hey Mary Rose, where have you been this morning?
MR: I started the morning about 6:30 on Hartford Road at a fire station in Lauraville. And folks there – probably about 70-80 people were lined up there before the polls opened. I spoke to the first five people; the first person in line was a young African-American woman who was voting for the first time, and she said she was so excited to vote, she had been talking about it with her family for a long time. And she was just really excited to be there. Someone else had researched the orphan’s judge question, so she was very knowledgeable about who she was going to vote for. And then I spoke to an elderly man who wouldn’t tell me who he was going to vote for for president. He was very excited about the election season and he thought the conversations he had been having were very engaging, and he was very excited about the season. And then I went to the ACLU hotline. They have not received any calls from voters who have had problems at the polls, they’ve just had some routine calls about, you know, “where should I vote?” and questions like that. Now I’m at the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore. These are the national headquarters. They have about 15 lawyers set up taking calls from Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina voters. And they have reported that they had a problem with a machine in Annapolis. Now they’ve had some calls where someone waits in line for a long time and they get to the top of the line and someone tells them they’re in the wrong line, so they send someone out to look at that.
SK: Where is that happening?
MR: That’s in Baltimore. So they’re having voters who are going to the wrong precinct and folks who are trying to get them to use provisional ballots, but they don’t really want to do that, they’re not %100 sure they’re going to be counted. They’ve had a couple of calls of precincts that didn’t open on time. This is all in Baltimore. And so they’re looking into all these calls. The lawyers here have their law books out with post-it notes all over them and stacks of paper and bowls of Chex Mix and I would say the majority of them, and I would say the majority of them, about 10 out of 15, are always on the phone.
Mary Rose thanks for keeping an eye on it for us. Mary Rose Madden of WYPR’s news team. Earlier we heard from WYPR news director Joel McCord.