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Votes

A Slow, Steady Turnout

Democratic primary voters choose Kerry

Voting at the polls in Mount Vernon for this week's Democratic primary was slow but steady. Estimates indicate that anywhere from 8 to 12 percent of the district's voters came out to the polls.

By 9 a.m. Tuesday, Stratford Landing, Fort Hunt and Walt Whitman were showing 144, 110 and 72 votes cast, respectively.

At Walt Whitman, John Harris said, "We expect 200-220, which would be 8-10 percent. So far we're right on the numbers."

As it turned out the numbers for the Sherwood District were much higher — the total was 439 ballots cast. Gail Franchi, election officer at Stratford Landing, said, "This is more than I thought. It's nice, but I am surprised. It's been steady all morning," she said. Total ballots cast there were 596.

Voters trickled into the polls throughout the day, and numbers were higher in the afternoon [around 4 p.m.], with West Potomac reporting 196, Belle View 247, and Hollin Hall Senior Center 274.

Stephen Snell, election officer at Belle View, said, "That number [247] puts us within the 10-15 percent range. It [the voting] has been very steady; we expect a rush around 5 p.m."

At the end of the day, Belle Haven recorded 296 votes. The election officers at Hollin Hall Senior Center said that they had a good turn-out and were also expecting a rush after work. Hilcress Stokes, election officer at West Potomac High School, said, "This is less than I expected. I expected it to be light, not this light."

MOUNT VERNON DISTRICT Supervisor Gerry Hyland cast his vote for John F. Kerry early in the morning at Walt Whitman. He spoke about how Virginia does not require voters to register their party affiliation, unlike like his home state of Massachusetts. Hyland reminisced about how his mother, a staunch Republican, was upset when he registered as a Democrat. He was a young man and felt that he identified with families and police officers in the Worcester, Mass., area who were involved in the Democratic party.

Senator Linda "Toddy" Puller (D-36) had already cast her vote for John F. Kerry, and after the election, said, "I'm very pleased that he won. I can't say that I was surprised that he won, but I was surprised at how handily he won, looks like he's on a roll."

For most election officers, this was their first time working a Democratic primary; the last one held in Virginia was in 1988. With the lower numbers, it definitely makes for a long day for these officers, who are at the polls from 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Nancy Cros, Tony Porcaro, Yvonne Reece and Deirdre Haibert came up with an informal office pool to pass the time; entries ranged from 390 to 598; with their precinct's total count coming in at 379, which meant even the lowest entry was short.

Maile Duggan and Christina Zirps, election officers at Fort Hunt Elementary School, said that they had some interesting experiences. Several Republicans came into vote, thinking that they could vote for Bush; they were disappointed and left. A couple of other voters said that they were voting for Joe Lieberman; both he and Dick Gephardt were still on the ballot.

While things may have been slow inside, outside Democratic committee members were trying to recruit volunteers for the party.

Scott Surovell, co-chair of the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee, said, "I thought the primary was very energizing for the party. We tried to use the primary as a recruiting tool and it was very successful. We identified Democrats and got a good group of new people."

One of those people who were recruiting was Surovell's mother, Glenda Booth. She was stationed at Hollin Hall Senior Center recruiting members for the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee. Workers are needed to work the polls; do voter registration drives; assist with mailings; make phone calls; work on political campaigns; do database management; help with event organization; do sign and literature distribution; and host fund-raisers.