There were four voting machines in the two precincts where I worked election day and they were constantly busy. Some 640 people voted. The regulars came, but so did people I had not seen before in my 10 elections at that polling station. And, they were determined to vote.
The precincts are north of Rudisill and west of South Wayne. Home Avenue, Packard, Wildwood, Broadway and Kinnard run through the precincts. They are blue collar, professional, retirees, young, old, white and black, a few latino. They came in quietly, stood politely and did their business.
At the end of the day the printers spewed out results. To students of ballots there were insights into how this little slice of Fort Wayne felt.
First, to make comparisons, you have to find those races that are not very dramatic, did not raise a fuss and can be seen as showing party-line votes, or tendencies. The attorney general race and the county coroner votes serve that purpose. Did you see many commercials for candidates in those races? Of course not. They do not raise much in the way of emotions. The results were about equal, Republican and Democrat. Same with the county treasurer’s race, 50-50. In two uncontested races Democratic State Representative Phil GiaQuinta and Republican Surveyor Allan Freisinger received about the same number of votes. In another contest David Long, Republican incumbent, held his own against the Democrat Tom Keen. If these results suggest a base then the precinct was relatively balanced.
But, at the top of the ticket, where there were lively debates the precinct voted for Democrats. President Obama got fully a third more votes that Governor Romney. Congressman Donnelly nearly doubled the vote of State Treasurer Mourdock, Glenda Ritz handily beat Superintendent of Education Tony Bennett by over three to two.
Who knows what it all means. There was no young interviewer from NBC conducting exit polls as I did years ago in the 1975 election. Most voters kept quietly to themselves and only asked questions of how to work the voting equipment to make sure their vote was cast properly. The machines still have a long way to go, more than a few people could not figure out the machines.
There were anecdotes that might be offered: the African-American turnout was surprisingly high, perhaps an indication of solidarity with a fellow black at the top of the ticket. Perhaps it was less about race and more about their take on the economy. Meanwhile, Nelson Peters, a European-American Republican, all but tied Democrat Gordon Anthony in the commissioner’s race.
Concerning the education race, there is a neighborhood school adjacent to the polling place, so perhaps a backlash against the sort of voucher program that takes tax dollars away from struggling schools in favor of private education. Perhaps a feeling that they might lose the school that is more than a school, it is a community center. Perhaps a fear that their kids might spend most of their mornings being bused to distant suburban schools, instead of walking a few blocks to classes.
Who knows why voters in this precinct spanked Mourdock, but they did. Given publicity one might think his comment on rape got the attention of more than a few. Who know what that may have struck a chord, if it did.
In fact, that is probably the single lesson of the election in this precinct, that every voter had a different set of values against which to measure candidates, and voter each took their job most seriously.
There were many proud first-time voters. There were many children who wanted to share the excitement of election day and the excitement of their parents. There were men and women who hobbled in nursing a bad leg or hip or heart. There was determination to make their voices heard. Quiet, cold determination. Pride in participation. There was a sense that what they were doing was very, very important, even if it were only one vote in sea of votes.