Virginia Votes

As Virginians voted on Election Day, WMRA heard from some of them at polling places around our region.

WMRA's Jordy Yager was at a Charlottesville polling station as it opened at 6 this morning...

Shortly after 6 this morning, a steady line of more than 50 people stretched outside the voting station at Charlottesville’s Tonsler Park.

POLL VOLUNTEER: Good morning, how are you, would you like a sample ballot?

Home to one of the largest concentrations of African American residents, the morning’s sun had barely cracked through the downtown sky, but the parking lot overflowed as voters braved the 40-degree temperatures to be the first to cast their ballots.

WOMAN: Alright, big day!

Fresh from the polls Michelle Burnley waited outside for her daughter, inside voting for the very first time. There’s no question who should be president, said Burnley, who works as a housekeeper. It would be Armageddon if Republican Donald Trump is elected.

MICHELLE BURNLEY: I believe he would cause a lot of chaos, and I’m at 50, and I have grandkids out here that has to grow up, and things are bad for us, I don’t want it to be even worse for them.

Jessie Knadler has this report from Rockbridge County...

A steady stream of cars pull in and out of the gravel driveway at Faith Mountain Baptist Church – one of the polling places in red leaning Rockbridge County. And the voters themselves? There seems to be a general attitude of meh in the air. One of those unimpressed voters is Leah Lanier. She’s a biologist at Washington and Lee University in Lexington.  She lives in the county with her biracial family.

LEAH LANIER:  The U.S. right now looks like a bunch of fools.

She didn’t really want to say who she voted for, only that this person is far more qualified than the other. For her, the contentious Election is the inevitable byproduct of a broken down, beaten up system.  Here she is talking about Congress.

LANIER: They can’t get together and take a simple vote on something that’s affecting everybody so drastically, like the Zika virus.

She’s referring to the Centers for Disease Control’s nearly year old request to Congress for an emergency spending bill to help stop the spread of the virus. Partisan fighting led to a months-long delay before a spending bill was passed only last month.  

If there is one upside to Election Day for Lanier, it's this. No more toxic political ads after today.

LANIER: I can watch the news with my family and not have to hit mute every five minutes because I don’t want my children to hear the nasty things that are being said on television.

Emily Richardson-Lorente filed this report from Charlottesville...

After such a contentious election season, you might think voters would be happy to just cast their ballot and be done with it. But more than a few folks at the Woodbrook Elementary polling station here in Charlottesville seem a little — shall we say — ambivalent? 

EMILY: So you voted. How do you feel?

ALYSON MARTIN: I feel … uh … I mean, you know …

That’s Alyson Martin. She’s 24, dressed to the nines, works in marketing.

ALYSON: You know, I don’t think there’s anything about this election that people haven’t already been said. It’s just frustrating, I do wish that we had more quality candidates to pick from.

Alyson wouldn’t say who she voted for, but others leaving the polling place were happy to tell me. Well, “happy” is maybe not the right word.

TOM RETAN: I voted for Trump. It pains me. But I did.

That’s Tom Retan. He’s sporting a pair of coveralls, a winter hat and a trim grey beard. He says he decided who to vote for about an hour ago.

TOM: Politics, it’s kind of fun, but it’s our future that we’re playing with. We’re going to have to wait and see. It’ll be interesting tonight.

This morning in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, voter turnout was high. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports....

Outside of the Linville Edom Ruritan Hall in Rockingham County, County Commissioner of the Revenue Lowell Barb was handing out Republican sample ballots.

LOWELL BARB:  I think I've worked here three years, now, and this is the most people I've ever seen here at one time. It's mostly a traffic jam. I have to direct traffic once in awhile, too.

Mary Sue McDonald is the precinct chief here.

MARY SUE Mc DONALD: Heaviest vote that I have ever experienced in working the polls, 17 years, I guess. People are excited. I think most people are voting with conviction.

In Harrisonburg, Virginia senator Mark Obenshain was standing outside Keister Elementary School.

MARK OBENSHAIN: One of the reasons I love Virginia is every year is an election year. I think it stokes our civic enthusiasm and makes people more responsible citizens and more informed.

Inside the school, electoral board member Bill Ney said the morning was busy.

BILL NEY: I guess it's a good day to be a proud American and everybody gets to vote.

Jordy Yager filed this second report from Charlottesville....

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spurred Charlottesville resident Hannah Cooper into action. Or as she said…

HANNAH COOPER: Terrified me into action.

This year the young millennial has been canvasing, phone banking, and pushing everyone she knows to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. And if that’s not enough, early Tuesday, before heading to work, she volunteered with the Democratic Party’s table outside a polling station.

HANNAH: Good morning, we have sample ballots, if you’d like to take a gander before you go inside.

Cooper was one of the first to vote Tuesday. She said it brought tears to her eyes.

HANNAH: I think as a woman, it is very exciting to see a woman finally having a real shot at becoming president. And as a human, it’s kind of like a good vs. evil situation, where Donald Trump’s rhetoric and beliefs really scare me, and I really hope that there’s a strong resistance to that in our country so that the next generation doesn’t grow up thinking that it’s okay to be a bully, and that you can stay in power and be in power by just being mean.

Voters turned out today for a variety of reasons, as Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports....

Clinton supporter Suzanne Smith came to the polls this morning with her three-year-old daughter Cora. As we talked, a truck with a large Trump banner circulated through the parking lot.

SUZANNE SMITH: I'm really just kind of glad to get this election day past us, all the craziness, like that.

Also voting for Clinton were Adam and Cathy Copeland.

ADAM COPELAND: As much as we're casting a ballot against Trump, we're not doing so with trepidation. While she may not be the perfect candidate, we're very much behind her.

CATHY COPELAND: And she may be the perfect candidate, too.

Betty Smith said she’s hoping Trump wins.

BETTY SMITH: I can’t stand Hillary Clinton. Every time I look at her I see a lying, sneaking snake in the grass. I would say Trump is the better of the two. I worked under the Clinton administration and saw Gore say we need to be a technology country, we don't need manufacturing, and it all went to Mexico and China, and I think Trump will bring it back and put Americans back to work.

Jessie Knadler filed this second report from Rockbridge County....

When Leonard Satterwhite exited the polling venue in Rockbridge County this morning, he looked like he was in a great mood even though, like for many voters, the run up to this election hasn’t been pleasant.

LEONARD SATTERWHITE: This is probably the most troubling election that I’ve experienced in my 60 plus years. I’ve always voted in every Presidential election. There’s been a lot of divisiveness in the country. I’m not very happy about that.

Satterwhite, who is African American and an administrator at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, didn’t say who he voted for.

SATTERWHITE: We are at a point in this country where we need to bring folks together, but clearly having someone in the White House who is for all Americans.

That said,

SATTERWHITE: I’m going to be fine and will support whatever candidate wins.

And here's another report from Emily Richardson-Lorente in Charlottesville....

After a grueling election season, it’s still hard to believe that some people just haven’t made up their mind — but it hasn’t been an easy choice for some.

DEIDRE VANDROSS: I was really disappointed just kind of how things were turning out and was still really ambivalent about who I was voting for.

It’s been just two weeks since Deirdre Vandross finally decided to vote for Hillary. If you think that’s cutting it close, meet Deirdre’s husband Orlando.

ORLANDO VANDROSS: I’m hopeful that by the time I cast my vote, I’ll be at peace, personally for me.

EMILY: So, your wife is literally holding the door to the polling location open and you still have not decided who you are voting for.

ORLANDO: Nah, I know that’s sad, but …

DEIDRE: He’s going to be praying about it. (laughing)

It must have worked, because ten minutes later, Orlando & Deirdre emerged sporting “I Voted” stickers

ORLANDO: I’ll say this, sometimes it’s good to know the devil you do know as opposed to the devil you don’t know.

EMILY: You’re not going to tell me which devil you voted for?

ORLANDO: (laughing) That’s all I’ll say.

While many voters this year may be saying they’re just glad this election day will soon be over, for others, today’s election is a milestone, as Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports....

For two Harrisonburg voters this morning, casting a ballot was an exciting first-time experience. 

Alison D’Silva, originally from Bangladesh, became a U.S. citizen just last year.

ALISON D’SILVA: I'm excited to be part of the process, and I'm also happy to come here and exercise my rights.

She voted for Hillary Clinton.

D’SILVA: I think it's a significant thing in this country or just anywhere when women are making progress in leadership roles.

Tony Haliburton, too, was elated.

TONY HALIBURTON: First time in my life, I was a convicted felon.

CLYMER KURTZ: And now you have your rights back. What's it like to get to vote?

HALIBURTON: I don't know. I've never done it. I don't know anything about it.

I caught up with him again after he had cast his ballot.

HALIBURTON: It's a done deal. I voted for the president. Yes. You have a good day, sir.

And, as Emily Richardson-Lorente reports, there were more choices than just who to vote for...

Here at the Woodbrook Elementary School polling place, it’s clear there are more than 2 options.

VOLUNTEER: Pumpkin muffins, and chocolate stuff, and cupcakes …

Since the school has been turned into a polling place, the PTO is trying to raise a little money with a bake sale. Carroll Trainum stopped to talk to me while his wife Barbara shopped for a snack after voting.

CARROLL TRAINUM: I’m glad it’s over. (laughing) I’ll be glad when all of this is over, I think I’m like most of America, I’ll be glad when this done. I can turn my TV back on. (laughing)

EMILY: May I ask who you voted for?

CARROLL: Yeah, you can ask.

(pause)

EMILY: Would you tell me?

CARROLL: (laughing) Not publicly, no.

Carroll wasn’t willing to say who he voted for, but then his wife Barbara came from the bake sale table, holding two goodies.

BARBARA OLIN: You mean the cupcakes? Notice that they have blue icing. There was a choice. (laughing)

In this election, there is definitely a choice, and lots of people here in Charlottesville are making it.