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on the radar

11.02.04 | Field Reports

FMF=Feminist Majority Foundation, which also oversees Choices Campus Leadership Program, the largest pro-choice student network

7 p.m.
I live in a pretty diverse neighborhood, a gentrifying area that’s still heavily Latino and Eastern European. My polling place is the high school across the street, a lumbering old building surrounded by a concrete yard -- no ballfields here.

So let's just say the mural that greets visitors in the school foyer is a bit out of place. For one thing, it's bright. Bright yellow and blues bright. Then there's the huge vertical signature in the right corner: Keith Haring '89.

Under gigantic, joyfully abstract Keith Haring figures, I punched and punched and punched.

There are dozens of judges to vote for, though mostly it’s just a yes or no vote on retention. Still, there are judges who should be removed from the bench now, before they end up in federal positions for which they’re not qualified.

But who’s going to research all these judges? My heroes, the Independent Voters of Illinois–Independent Precinct Organization. They interview each and every judge and note the few judges who not respond to their invitation. With their recommendations based on these policies in hand, I could keep punching through the entire ballot, instead of pulling out the card after voting for local House and Senate candidates.

I submitted my ballot to a young woman with glasses and waited for the machine to spit out the ballot receipt from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. I was voter number 589. There are 900 registered voters in this precinct. At 6:35 p.m., when I was walking through the foyer toward the school’s exit, I counted 30 people behind me.

Two couples were on their way in, followed by an older man wearing a fedora hat. Another man, this one much younger, in a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap, showed his registration card. He was given directions in Spanish to the correct polling site, a church a few blocks away.
- Christine Cupaiuolo, Ms. web editor

4 p.m.
I went to vote at my inner city polling place in Minneapolis about 10 a.m. CST. The line was long, although not as long as it was at 7 a.m., when the polls opened here in Minnesota. According to poll workers, it was down the hall at the Sabathanni Community Center, around the corner, around the next corner and nearly to the gym -- probably close to 100 folks in line before voting actually began.

I waited 45 minutes, about the same amount of time I waited to vote the last time around, although that was after work and this was mid-morning, when one might expect turnout to be a bit lighter. Voting seemed to be going smoothly with fewer same-day voters registering than one might expect.

As a swing state, we've been under election-siege since late September by candidates and get out the vote groups. It seems almost everyone in the state must be registered by now. A co-worker who just finished a six-hour shift as an election judge, however, said same-day registrations were pretty high in her precinct, also in Minneapolis.

I was in Southern California for the weekend and it was remarkable how different the climate was, and I don't mean the weather. You would hardly have known we were having a national election. Even in Orange County, I saw few Bush signs and fewer Kerry signs. Most everything referred to local propositions.

Here the freeway overpasses, street corners and bridges all seem to have people out today waving signs for Bush or Kerry. (Mostly Kerry in the city, more Bush in the burbs.)
- J. Trout Lowen, Minnesota Women's Press editor

3 p.m.
Mar Vista, California
Being Jewish, I’m not crazy about voting under a portrait of Jesus, but that was the décor at the Korean Church that serves as my precinct’s polling place. (The room actually contained two portraits of J.C., plus a scene of him leading a flock of sheep.)

There were about a half-dozen people at a time in line — a little more than usual for a presidential election, but not the horde I was dreading/hoping for.

The process seemed to be going smoothly, but the head worker told me that three of his volunteers hadn’t bothered to show up. And for the first time in my voting life, I became aware of voting problems:

1) Three of the people ahead of me in line were using provisional ballots. One woman had registered only a week ago, and the poll worker told her she would have had to register a month ago. Nonethless, she got a ballot — but her vote probably won’t count.

2) California now has an inking rather than punch card system — but the voting system looks identical. The good news was that the head worker made a point of demonstrating to voters how to use the inker (“press hard”). The bad news was that people were still a bit confused by it.

One woman thought she had broken hers (she hadn’t) and my own partner thought she was punching a card, not simply making a black ink mark. I think there will be lots of that sort of awkwardness in California voting booths today.

Speaking of which...

Beverly Hills, California
Feminist Majority board member Lorraine Sheinberg DID break the voting stylus by pressing so hard that there would be no dangling chads. She, too, didn’t realize that it’s now an ink system.

The polling place (the Beverly Hills Hotel) didn’t have a replacement stylus, so it’s now one voting station short. Meanwhile, Lorraine finished marking her ballot by using the innards of the stylus, and — like the women who recently voted in Afghanistan — will carry an ink mark on her thumb for the next couple of days.
- Michele Kort, Ms. senior editor

Columbus, Ohio - Ohio State University
On Sunday night, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance called more than 500 people, asking if they needed assistance identifying their polling place and offering rides. The FMLA helped close to 50 people identify their polling site.

Today they have received approximately 25 calls from people who wanted to know where they should go to vote. Although waits are reportedly up to four hours long at polling places, it appears that people are waiting it out.
- Andrea Scarpino, FMLA

2 p.m.
Ames, Iowa

Our FMF organizers at Iowa State University report both polling locations on campus are very busy. One had a waiting time of approximately one hour, the other about 20 minutes. Nearly half of the students voted early, either by absentee ballot or during the satellite voting.
- Susie Gilligan, FMF

Iowa City
FMF campus organizer reports there is a strong turnout in Iowa City. Lines at polling sites on and near the campus range from 20 minutes to one hour. At one precinct near the campus, 60 percent of registered voters had already voted by 12:30 p.m.
- Susie Gilligan, FMF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Lines are still close to two hours long around University Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The polls in the city seem to be short on officials, but things are going well.
- Crystal Lander, FMF campus program director

Philadelphia - Temple University
Seventy-five percent of the campus seems to have voted. There are five polling places on campus. No reports of voter intimidation, things going smoothly. Long lines and so
many people out with signs, etc, as well as students with megaphones.
- Crystal Lander, FMF campus program director

1 p.m.
Lillian Ciarrochi, a longtime activist who once headed Philadelphia NOW and worked on ERA ratification efforts, reports overwhelming turnout. Kerry supporters are going door to door in a huge apartment building complex to get every Democratic voter out to vote. Reports from around the city suggest similar turnouts everywhere.

12 p.m.
Washington, D.C.
Feminist organizer Alice Cohan reports that voting lines were long this morning. Alice also was handed a one page exit poll, which was being given to every 10th person in line.

Northern Virginia
Ms. publisher Eleanor Smeal said she has never seen such long lines in her 20-plus years voting here. "The lines were filled with young people, it blew me away," said Smeal.

More long lines at polling places around the University of Wisconsin. There were so many poll watchers that FMF activists left that job and returned to the university to continue to drum up voter turnout.