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Votes

This Time Voters Are Determined

Apathy was not on the agenda this election day.

Election day 2006 in Mount Vernon District turned out every bit as projected and more. As soon as the polls opened at 6 a.m. poll workers were swamped with voters lined up and waiting.

"It has been heavy and constant all day. We've only had about a 30-minute lull since early this morning," said Mattie Palmore, chief election officer, Martha Washington Library on Fort Hunt Road in Belle Haven. That was at 3:40 p.m. when they had admitted 950 voters out of a total precinct registration of 2200.

The turnout was even higher just across Fort Hunt Road at Precinct 602, Belle View Elementary School. "We've had a 42 percent turn out of active voters," said Pedro Safler, assistant election officer. Their count stood at 1005 by 3:30 p.m.

As for what was driving the turn out came down to a split decision. For many it was the Iraq War. "This war is giving us a bad name worldwide. I have never heard so many people say that if the Republicans retain control of Congress it will prove the American people don't care what the rest of the world thinks," said Jamie Johnson.

For others it was not only the candidates but also the ballot questions pertaining to the constitutional amendments, particularly the one dealing with same sex marriage. However, an unsophisticated effort at exit polling gave no clear indication of an up or down vote on the outcome of any of them.

Other precinct tallies by late afternoon throughout Mount Vernon District were as follows:

* Walt Whitman Middle School had processed 1102 voters out of a total registration of 2744 by 2:45 p.m.

* Stafford Landing showed a 1632 turn out. "We had very long lines that lasted several hours this morning," said Rosemay Jellish, assistant elections chief. This precinct is viewed as a bell weather by many in the area. It has consistently voted with the winner in almost every election, according to statistical records.

* At Waynewood Elementary there had been 734 voters with an additional 100 absentee ballots cast out of a potential 1300 registered voters. "We had a line waiting at 6 a.m. and we processed 300 voters in the first two hours," said Chief Election Officer Sidoux Mitchell.

TUESDAY WAS ALSO A DAY for Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland to continue his willingness to spread the concept and mechanisms of American democracy to foreign visitors. This time he met with a delegation of five Algerians here to observe our electorial process.

As part of the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program, the group assembled in Hyland's office at the Mount Vernon Government Center on Parkers Lane and then accompanied him across the street to Walt Whitman Middle School to get a first hand view of a politician voting.

Prior to that Hyland explained his role in County government and elaborated on how local government is structured in Virginia. He also answered their questions on everything from how and when he became interested in politics to his views on national issues.

The group, which included three members of the Algiers parliament, only spoke French. However, they were accompanied by two members of Meridian International Center, a non-profit international education and exchange organization based in Washington, D.C. Also, greatly facilitating the conversation was the fact that Hyland is fluent in French and could converse with his visitors directly with or without the interpreters.

When one visitor asked if he (Hyland) was comparable to a mayor, he answered "yes and no," displaying good American political expertise. "I serve on a Board of Supervisors that is composed of eight others representing their individual districts and a chairman who is elected at large. When I propose something for my district there is great deference on the Board for my wishes as there is for the others and their districts," Hyland explained.

He also noted that Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors is presently composed of seven Democrats and three Republicans. "And, we all get along very well," he told the Algerians.

For nearly 45 minutes Hyland held forth on how Fairfax County and Virginia is structured, how it is managed, the size of the budget and priority expenditures, and a host of other facts mixed with his usual array of anecdotes. That was followed by their observance of the actual voting process.

The group is in this country for three weeks traveling to various locations. There primary mission is to observe and learn about our election system as an aid in getting their youth involved in their political process back home, according to Joanne Clark of Meridian International Center.

As Hyland told the group this is "our challenge as well. One of my greatest disappointments is that we rank 30 among 31 nations in voter turn out for most elections, particularly when it is not a presidential election year." As polls approached closing Tuesday night this may be one year that Hyland is not disappointed.