With clear blue skies and unseasonably warm weather, Reston voters were hard pressed to blame the weather for keeping them from the ballot booth on Tuesday.
"They have no excuse today. What a beautiful day," said Randy Causey, the poll chief at Aldrin Elementary School in North Reston. Causey, who has volunteered at his polling place for the past four years, said that at around 9:30 a.m. he was getting a "pretty steady and strong turnout" among the roughly 4,000 registered voters. There had been around 400 voters at Aldrin Elementary School by that time, only three and a half hours after the polls opened Tuesday morning.
"We always get a good turnout," said Causey, the precinct's poll chief. "The last local election we got about 37 percent of the vote, and I expect that we will top that today."
Beautiful weather and all, the precinct chief said he wouldn't want to be anywhere else but the Aldrin auditorium. "The price of freedom isn't free," Causey said. "Why do I give blood? Why do I vote? Somebody has to."
Outside Aldrin, another volunteer dedicated his day in the name of democracy. As an 18-year-old college freshman at Richard Bland College, Jason Smart doesn't see 5:30 a.m. unless he has been up all night. On Tuesday, that changed. "My earliest class isn't until 10 a.m.," the Great Falls resident said. "But I felt that strongly about Dave Hunt."
Like campaign volunteers around the state, Smart stood about 40-feet outside the front doors of Aldrin Elementary School beginning before the sun came up on Tuesday offering voters a pamphlet on his favorite candidate. "It's great. Dave has volunteers at every precinct in the district today," Smart said. "I think that says a lot."
LACKING THE GLAMOUR of a presidential or competitive congressional contest, off-year elections often times struggle to attract voters to the polls. Over at the Reston Community Center (RCC) at Lake Anne, Reston resident Rhoda Christensen brought her granddaughter to the polls. "I always vote. The election seems especially important this year," Christensen said. "We live here and we should be concerned with the politics at the local level because it makes even more of an impact on our daily lives."
Across town, Craig Cibak brought his son Matthew, 6, to the polls at his precinct in Hunters Woods. Cibak said he has been bringing his son to the polls for as long as he could remember. "It's an important process for him to see," said Cibak, who cited education and transportation as his two most important issues. "For some of us, it is our only say in this democracy."
At a busy precinct at Lake Anne Elementary School, Miriam Levine echoed Christensen's sentiments. "It's easy to vote during Presidential elections," Levine said. "I just wish more people would vote during off-year elections. I don't think people understand how much goes on at the local and state level. This is a wake-up call."
Miriam Levine's husband, Carl, a new member of the RCC Board of Governors, said he and his wife never miss an election. Carl Levine said the low voter turnout is "pathetic."
Miriam Levine said exercising one's right to vote is "the greatest gift we have. It is just short of foolish not to vote."
Fellow Lake Anne voter Gladys Johnson had even stronger words for those voters who didn't show up to the polls on Election Day. "They deserve what they get," Johnson said, while walking into the polls.
While admitting that she has missed "a couple" of elections in the past, Debra Roth, a Reston resident since 1984, said the right to vote "should be cherished." Roth said this year's contests were too important to pass up. "Usually, I consider myself very independent, but based on some of the things that have gone on at the Federal and state level, I am heavily supporting Democrats this year. Ken Plum didn't need my vote, but I wanted to give it to him, anyway."
Roth, who does not have children, said she wished she had studied the issue of the School Bonds more closely. "Schools are still a very important issue, even for those of us who don't have children," Roth said.
Carl Levine, who like Roth does not have children in the county system, agreed that education was one of the year's most important issues. Pointing to the portable classrooms sitting outside his Lake Anne Elementary School precinct, Levine could only shake his head. "This is an abomination," he said. "This is Fairfax County and our children need and deserve better facilities."