My husband and I got up at 5am this morning so we would be at our polling place before it opened at 6am. We definitely knew where we were going. If we had any doubt, I had the benefit of numerous e-mails received from both campaigns over the past three days urging me to vote and providing my polling location, some with maps included, and its hours. We left the house about 5:30 am in the dark and drizzle and headed into town.
We arrived at the Floyd County Rescue Squad headquarters, the polling place for the Little River precinct, the largest in Floyd County, at 5:45am. It was decked out with campaign signs (pretty evenly distributed between Democratic and Republican candidates) like it was Christmas, the most elaborate display I've seen in my ten years here. There were 17 people already in line when we took our places at the end. The line grew quietly and steadily. At 5:55am as the rain was getting heavier they decided to let us into the building.
By the time the polls opened at 6am there were about 50 voters on line. The majority were middle-aged white, working class men. Most were in their work clothes, some with their names or companies embroidered on their shirts. During our 20 minutes on line people remained very quiet, whispering to one another inaudibly. No one seemed in the mood to talk. They seemed singularly focused - to vote quickly and get on with the day, this one important task accomplished. I overheard a few comments indicating that some were ready "for this election to be over." I did perceive a quiet unspoken anticipation/nervousness in the air.
The poll workers moved the voters through the process very efficiently. There was only one individual who had a problem voting while I was there, naturally it was my husband. We have touch screen voting and he accidentally touched the button for (Right in the middle of this sentence a volunteer from the Obama campaign called to encourage me to vote and ask if I needed a ride to the polls!) McCain-Palin. He first asked one poll worker who was handing out "I Voted" stickers what to do. She didn't know but called over another who took care of the problem in no time. My husband doesn't trust our voting system. My bet is that he did this on purpose to see if they knew what they were doing.
When we left the polls at 6:10am there was now someone directing the traffic in and out because cars were backing up onto the main road. We arrived back home at 6:30am. The entire adventure had only taken an hour. Oh, the joys of the rural life. It certainly was disappointing in terms of any Election Day incidents, however. I went by our polling place and the one at the Floyd County High School between 7:30am and 8:00am. Cars were regularly driving in and out but there were no lines outside. Evidently, the morning rush was already over.
I drove by the gathering place where Obama supporters were meeting for volunteer work. It looked deserted except for three or four cars with Obama bumper stickers. The only one I found there was the Obama campaign's director for our region, Drew. He was sitting at a table busily going through a list of names and addresses. I told him that I was there to help take voters to the polls. He told me that the first carload of voters had just left.
He had one important project today, he continued. Someone had to pick up a young voter who lived in Roanoke an hour away, bring her to Floyd to vote and then take her back to work in Roanoke - a total of four hours traveling just to vote! Every vote certainly does count in Virginia this year. I told him I would be happy to help and he took my number and said he'd call me later. I asked if they needed any help hanging door tags. Nope. The door tags had already been distributed and hung. It was only 8:10 am. Now that's a well-oiled campaign machine. I suspect that the Obama campaign actually has more volunteers than it even needs around here.
While turnout so far appears to be light in Floyd County compared to other places across the state and the country, remember that it is a rural county. Even though the number of registered voters in the county increased 5 percent this year, there are only a total of 10, 103 votes to be cast in five precincts. Furthermore, Virginia voters had the option to vote early.
Approximately 500 voters had already cast absentee ballets by October 23rd. Many others (I don't know how many) also cast early ballots.
Most likely, if there are any unusually long lines, they'll appear between 5pm and 7pm as voters rush to vote after work before the polls close as they most often do here. Turnout is expected to be high, especially among Democrats as there has been so much enthusiasm for the Obama campaign. The real question that remains is how strong the Republican turnout will be. The difference in enthusiasm levels for the two candidates may just put Obama over the top and a Democratic presidential candidate may win in Floyd County. Now that would be historic.