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Election Day: Tales From the Polls

I was number 21.

As a Democratic committeewoman, I figured I'd be at the polls early enough to be the day's first voter. But when I arrived shortly after 6:30 a.m., I found a line stretching from the voting-room door to the church's front door!

As the morning rush-hour voters streamed in, the line continued out the front door, down the wheelchair ramp and down the street past all the candidates' yard signs. A Republican who has voted here for 32 years said this was the first time he had ever seen a line like this.

By the end of the day, our polling place counted a staggering 900 voters of the 1,400-some voters on the rolls. When you figure that some voters on the rolls have likely moved or died, it is an astonishing turnout -- almost 70 percent! Similar record turnouts were reported elsewhere in the Philadelphia suburbs.

(There are some elections where we only see 150 voters the whole day! Tuesday, we had 89 voters in the first half-hour, and for a while in the morning we were seeing about 100 voters an hour!)

Many of the voters were new. It was typical for us to say, as we handed someone a sample ballot, "Down the hall, last door on the left." It was wonderful to see so many people energized and turning out to vote; it would be even more wonderful to see them now every election.

The most amazing moment of Election Day, obviously, was stepping into the booth and pushing the touchpad entry D13 -- the ballot position for:

"Barack Obama

Joe Biden
Vice President"

The green-arrow light jumped on. A voter later in the day turned to me on her way out and commented, "I thought there would be fireworks and bells and whistles."

I know what she meant.

It seemed like many of us were aware of history in the making. Once I looked outside and saw two men who had just voted. One stood beside an Obama sign, while the other snapped his picture. Then the two switched places. Undoubtedly, they did that for the same reason I am blogging this now -- to always remember.

I had no idea what else to expect on the big day, what with all the dire warnings of potential two-hour lines and voter suppression. Thankfully, the early-morning lines turned out to be the only ones of any length, and after the first-thing flurry of taping numerous sample ballots on the walls, Election Day settled into its typical rhythm. My hubby, son and I pinned on Obama/Biden and "Sestak for Congress" buttons and, along with some other local Democrats, handed out yellow Democratic sample ballots and other literature. Our state senator and state rep stopped by to press the flesh and schmooze the voters.

At about 1 p.m., I walked down to the other poll to see how things were going, and there was no problem. But on the way, it started to rain; I thought this might depress turnout, but it didn't. (But in the meantime, I called in for umbrellas and rain ponchos, just in case. I also asked for apples, for the lines of starving evening voters who turned out not to materialize.)

We weren't sure how many stragglers would turn out just before 8 p.m., but in the end there weren't any. We looked up and down the road, and saw no one. The constable locked the doors, and then it was all over but the counting. As a poll watcher, I was in the room to write down the totals for Obama (547) and McCain (327), and the other candidates.

The next morning, hubby and I went out to breakfast and toasted the victory of President-Elect Obama.

And then we took a well-deserved nap!

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