Potomac residents went to the polls Nov. 2 in what appeared to be record numbers.
“Before 7 a.m. this morning, there were more than 100 people in line, and I have not seen that in my last 16 years of being here as chairman of this precinct,” said Vernon Ricks, who was handing out Democratic sample ballots in front of Our Lady of Mercy Church on Kentsdale Road. “The lines have been out the door.”
Potomac citizens waited in lines that snaked out of polling stations for hundreds of feet in some cases. Voters arrived as early as 6:15 a.m. to be first in line. By the time the polls opened at 7 a.m., 200 or more people were waiting at many polling stations.
Many voters waited an hour to vote, but the lines were orderly, voters said, and the touch-screen voting machines were easy to use.
AT SEVEN LOCKS Elementary School, voters "were parked over at the Buddhist temple and just jam packed. And then people were lined up. People were literally waiting like a shopping center for people to pull out so they could pull in,” said Michelle Kiraly, Democratic precinct chair for precinct 10-03.
“It’s phenomenal. Usually we have maybe 10 or 15 people standing outside when it opens,” Kiraly said.
She guessed that the morning turnout was 4 to 5 times greater than in past elections.
At Winston Churchill High School, a second wave of voters at approximately 11 a.m. stretched through a long hallway all the way to the door.
AN UNOFFICIAL TALLY of voters through 10 a.m. at Churchill showed that 401 Democrats, 147 Republicans and 136 Independents or other party voters had come through. The polling there usually has about a 2:1 ratio of Democrats to Republicans said Democratic precinct chair Jerry Garson, and the fact that early tally exceeded that ratio was good news for his party, Garson said.
The 10 a.m. tally at the Potomac Community Center showed 245 Democrats, 98 Republicans and 110 others had voted there.
“I think it looks phenomenal. Excellent. Very, very good,” said 10-03 Republican Precinct Chair Michelle Crowley, of the turnout. “We’re very hopeful for a very high turnout. We had an excellent turnout two years ago, and I’m sure that this will surpass our expectations.”
MORE THAN A DOZEN Bush supporters cheered and waved signs at the intersection of Falls and River roads in Potomac Village.
Many passing drivers honked or gave a thumbs-up to the Bush supporters, while a few booed or made gestures. The Bush crowd encouraged all voters to exercise their right to go to the polls.
“No matter who you vote for, Americans have died all over the world to protect the right to vote,” and citizens have a responsibility to use it, said John Kane, the Montgomery County Republican Party chair who spent more than an hour with the group before leaving for press events in Baltimore and Annapolis.
Kane’s daughter, Elizabeth Kane, 12, and her Stone Ridge classmate, Baihly Underhill, 13, used a bullhorn to encourage drivers waiting on River Road to vote for Bush, while an even younger group of future voters held signs in front of Mitch and Bill’s Exxon station.
Groups of high school students at the Churchill, Potomac Elementary and Potomac Community Center polling sites sold baked goods to support charities or student organizations.
VOTERS AT ALL the polling stations echoed the sentiment expressed in both President Bush and Senator Kerry’s campaign speeches: that this is the most important election in the lifetimes of voting Americans.
“I just can’t imagine that it could be any more important,” Kiraly said. “We have two worlds in front of us, two very different worlds ahead of us and we have to choose between one world and another.”