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Votes

Doing Their Duty

Voters turn out to perform their civic obligation in Springfield

Standing across a gray sidewalk from each other, a representative from the Democratic and Republican parties made small talk while greeting voters at Ravensworth Elementary Tuesday morning. They compared notes on voter turnout, the weather, anything but who should win seats in the midterm election.

"Out of the 1,600 registered voters in this precinct, 400 people had voted by 10 a.m.," said Republican Bob Weidner of Fairfax Station.

"The folks inside said it's a really good turnout for this time of day," said Democrat Judy Lucianovic of Springfield.

Only a handful of voters were trickling in and out of the school by mid-Tuesday morning, combined with parents who stopped by the school for teacher conferences.

BASED ON THE slew of campaign ads from all sides, parties and groups in recent weeks, the lack of malice or political conversation of any kind at the polls at three precincts in Springfield was a refreshing surprise.

"People aren't really talking, they're just looking determined to be good citizens," said Weidner.

The pair working the polls had their reasons, of course.

Weidner said he was compelled to vote because of taxes.

"I know that I support the president's tax cuts and I don't want to lose those," he said.

For Lucianovic, it was the war in Iraq that made her cast her ballot.

"I was opposed to it before it happened so of course I'm not pleased with it now," she said.

Those voters who weren't passing out literature on the candidates or sample ballots were voting out of a sense of civic duty.

"I always vote," said Ravensworth resident John Shroeder. "I'm a follower of political issues. I would vote more often if I had the opportunity."

Kate Thurgood of Springfield agreed, adding that "voting is really important."

"I vote all the time," said Cheryl Gramling. "There wasn't a particular race that really made me do it, it's just something I've always done."

Ana Burns said she's hoping to preserve a sense of morality with her choices.

"Now that we're probably electing a new Congress and Senate, all the laws that will be passed will be important to the future of my children and the security of the country," Burns said.

OVER AT the Snyder Center in Kingstowne, only two representatives of the Democratic party greeted voters — the Republicans had left at 9 a.m.

"As of 10 a.m., we had 648 voters," said Mike Schwartz. "A lot of people have been thanking us for what we're doing out here and for being (Jim) Webb supporters."

Both Schwartz and his fellow Democrat, Darryl DeLawder, said the line of voters had been steady all morning, creating long lines for voters.

DeLawder said he signed up to work the polls as a way to do some volunteer work.

"I have so little time to get involved that doing this one day a year is a way to do what I feel is important," he said.

Much like in Ravensworth, the Franconia voters said their voting was not in response to campaign ads or any one issue, but a sense of obligation.

"I always vote," said Fotis Thomopoulos, who brought his two young children with him to the poll.

As a member of an immigrant family, Thomopoulos said he came from a country where voting is an important thing to do.

"Now that my son is getting older, he's starting to ask questions," he said. "He went into the booth with me. My daughter's too young to be interested."

With her two-month old daughter in a stroller, Megan Arleth said she voted because "it's important to vote for the Democrats, especially in the Senate race."

Peter and Sherry McGrath of Kingstowne came out to support Webb against George Allen (R).

"I'm not a fan of Allen," Peter McGrath said.

Sherry McGrath said she wanted her voice to be heard, especially on the issue of gay marriage and the so-called Marriage Amendment.

"I'm all for it," she said. "I wanted to speak my piece about that."

When asked about the use of electronic voting machines, Peter McGrath said he was a little concerned about their security.

"I just hope my vote really does get counted and that the system isn't all rigged up," he said.

AT LYNBROOK Elementary, Gerry Miske walked around the parking lot, handing out blue sample ballots while carrying an umbrella as an early afternoon shower loomed overhead.

Although he hadn't heard many people discussing the races or issues while voting, Miske said he did hear people asking about the referendums on the ballot.

"What I can tell you is that it seems clear that the Democrats are bouncing out of their skins," Miske said. "This is the happiest and most joyful I've seen people in 30 years."

By noon, Lynbrook had over 420 voters, Miske said, adding that the Hayfield precinct had logged close to 600 by 10 a.m.

"I vote because I'm one of those people that think that if I don't vote, I don't have the right to complain later," said Lynbrook resident Charlotte Holzman. "I think it's getting more important for people to get involved now. Plus, I want to see a change in the government."

Steve Wilbur said he votes every year, simply because "everyone needs to participate if it's going to work."

Bush Hill resident and poll worker John Rosenthal said most of the people he'd talked with were in support of the Democratic ticket.

"Only one woman said she didn't vote for Webb, and that was because her intuition told her he wasn't the right guy," Rosenthal said.

While he personally supported Webb, Rosenthal said he'd like to see a change in government overall.

"The Republicans are not holding the president accountable and the Democrats would at go through the process of making him explain things," he said. "Right now, the House and Senate give him a free pass to do what he wants."

When asked where the Republican Party had set up their table near the polls, Miske said no representatives had arrived at the school.

"I think someone called them to say no one was here, but I don't know if they'll be here," he said with a grin.

While many voters were voting out of habit and obligation, Nancy MacDonald had a more specific reason.

"We need a change in government. I'm tired of Bush and his shenanigans," she said. "We need someone who will work for the middle class and really represent the people."

Anne Sedlack agreed with MacDonald, saying she voted in honor of the people who died to give her the right.

"I hate that war in Iraq," she said, which was the most important factor in making her decision. "I don't think we're doing that right at all."

After years of working with computers and technology, Norm Brown said he was skeptical of the electronic machines he'd used to vote, but it wasn't going to keep him from visiting the polls.

"If you don't vote, you can't bitch about it later," he said. "Plus, it seems the races are so close, it feels like my vote will count more, but I'm not convinced it'll actually go through."

In her second election, Edda Barrios said she felt it was important, as a new citizen, to exercise her rights.

"I have to be a part of this country and interested in what's happening here," she said.

Her biggest concern was the marriage amendment.

"I'm concerned about it," she said. "I think it should just be (between) a man and a woman, period."