So finally I have a chance to sit down and talk about Election Day.
- My day at the polls was very surprising, not so much for the outcome -- the three Federal races and the four ballot measures all went the way I thought they would -- or the turnout -- which was as heavy as I expected -- but for the distribution of the turnout. The line formed shortly after 5:00 AM, and by the time the doors opened at six, the line extended around the building. For the first two to three hours, each of the eight voting booths were pretty much continuously occupied, and there was a long line of voters waiting to use the one touchscreen machine. Once the teeming throng had moved on, turnout remained steady for most of the rest of the day, with a brief uptick around lunchtime. We all expected another big surge starting around 5:00 PM, but the surge never arrived, and by 7:00 PM we had no one in line at all. By comparison, back in February for the Presidential primary we probably had at least 50 people in line when the doors closed, and a handful of people who arrived late, including one real jerk. Most of us were out of there by 9:00 PM, which is pretty amazing considering we'd had more than 2,000 voters pass through. (I was there later than most others, because the Deputy Precinct Chief was giving me a ride home.)
- Per the Loudoun Independent, my vote contributed approximately not at all Obama's victory; he easily carried the precinct, county, and state without help from the absentee voters. Nevertheless, I do not regret the "wasted" vote.
- For part of the day I was on door duty, meaning I stood at the entrance to the school greeting people and telling them to turn off their cell phones. During that time, I noticed two curious things about the candidate signs posted in sight of the polling place. One, the local parties had posted signs for all their candidates around the building, with one exception: there were no signs for Republican Senate candidate Jim "Governor Stupidhead" Gilmore. You know your candidacy is in trouble when your own party won't put up a sign supporting you. (They did at least suggest voting for him on the sample ballot they handed out.) Unsurprisingly, Gilmore was trounced by the Democratic candidate (and coincidentally his successor as Governor) Mark Warner. The other odd thing I noticed was that on some of the signs, when viewed from a distance, Sarah Palin's name appeared to be printed larger than John McCain's. When seen up close, they were clearly the same size, but it was a curious illusion.
- Best surprise of the day: someone showed up early in the day with a tray of breakfast burritos and chicken biscuits from Chick-Fil-A, and told us they'd be back later with trays of nuggets and strips for lunch and dinner. Whee! I ended up taking home a gallon jug of apple cider that was left over at the end of the day. That kind of makes up for not getting my free ice cream from Ben and Jerry's, but I still feel discriminated against.
- Second best surprise: when my co-worker JL showed up to vote. He's young, and kind of lazy and selfish, and I figured there was a 75% chance he would end up flaking out. So props to him, and a slap on the wrist for me for underestimating him.
- Write-in votes of note: Peter Griffin received one vote for U.S. House of Representatives; as a resident of Rhode Island, he's constitutionally ineligible to serve. One person wrote in a full Presidential slate: Ron Paul for President, and Bob Barr for Vice President. Paul got two other votes for President; those voters didn't bother naming a Vice President. No votes for Mickey Mouse, alas.
Coming later: thoughts on the new Congress.