By 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, election volunteers Norma Ward and Katy Stiltner, both of Greenbriar, had already worked more than seven hours. Both were helping to check in voters at Greenbriar West Elementary, and some 500 people had cast their ballots there since the polls opened at 6 a.m.
"BUT WE HAD to be here at 5 a.m. to be sworn in, post signs [directing voters to the cafeteria] and set up voting booths and tables," said Ward. "And the school custodians came in even earlier to open the door and turn on the lights and air conditioning."
Stiltner said things weren't as busy this time because it wasn't a presidential election. "Last year was a zoo," agreed Ward. "This year was much smaller, with a small ballot and one bond issue."
Nonetheless, Stiltner was excited. "We have about 2,000 registered voters in this voting place, and it's getting close to a 50-percent turnout," she said. "If we get 500 voters in the afternoon, we'll get it." (And as it turned out, they did).
Greenbriar resident Elmer McNeil was among those voters. "I'm just doing my duty, coming here to vote," he said. Although choosing not to reveal which candidates he was supporting, he said it was of great significance to him to vote for the "right candidate." As for the school-bond referendum, McNeil said he was for it "all the way."
Virginia Rutledge also kept her voting choices close to the vest, but said, "It's a very tight election and I thought it was important to vote, especially for governor and lieutenant governor." A former school psychologist at both Greenbriar East and West elementaries, Rutledge said she intended to vote in favor of the school bond. "I've worked in the school system for 18 years," she said. "I retired July 1."
SUSAN RICE planned to vote a straight Republican ticket "because of some of the moral issues and because I'm for transportation and roads and no taxes." She, too, was voting yes on the school-bond referendum "to support the schools and give them the money they need."
Meanwhile, James Amon, 21, was pleased because this was the first time he could cast his vote in person, rather than via absentee ballot. Usually, he's away at college; but this time, he's taking a semester off from Virginia Tech to work on an internship program.
He said he wanted to vote for Tim Kaine for governor because of Jerry Kilgore's negative ads against him on TV. "I thought the ads were a low blow and not quite fair," explained Amon.
And in the race for 67th House delegate, he said he voted "against Craddock because he was [considered by the Washington Post] as one of the worst candidates in Virginia because of the negative attacks on his opponent [Gary Reese] in the Republican primary."
Amon also disliked Craddock after "he was quoted as saying that 'the AIDS epidemic started because people in Africa would have sex with anything with a pulse', and that appalled me."
Regarding the school bond, as a graduate of Greenbriar West, Rocky Run Middle and Chantilly High, he, too, supported it. "I know this area's expanding in population base and there are too many trailers," said Amon. "And classrooms can always use more money."
GBW's chief election officer Tuesday was Kim Olson, who oversaw 10 regular volunteers, plus one student helper. She said things were going smoothly there: "We've had a steady stream of people and negligible waiting time. And we assisted about seven elderly or disabled people with curbside voting."
She said they didn't expect throngs of voters there because it was a gubernatorial race, but she was "pleasantly surprised" at the continual flow of voters. And for their part, said Olson, the voters were delighted that there were no lines — "especially after last year."
CHANTILLY HIGH senior Ally Watkins, 17, was the student volunteer. She said it was a project for her government class. "You could write a report, work for a campaign or work at the polls, and it seemed like this was the easiest," she said. "And I thought it would be good to see how a polling place worked."
Her duties included picking up campaign literature and, she said, "If people come here to vote, but are registered elsewhere, I tell them where they should be. And I rewind the tape on the TV, explaining to people how to vote."
Sitting at a table with Ward and Stiltner, Watkins said, all in all, she ended up having a nice time. "It's been a good experience," she said. "I'm glad I did it. I thought it would be boring, but I'm enjoying the company." To be an election volunteer, call 703-324-4735 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.