Voters ‘surprised,’ ‘excited’ on historic election day
Some polling places looked as if they were handing out free money as voters across the nation — including Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama — hit the polls in a historic election Tuesday.
When the ballots are counted, the United States will have elected either its first African-American president, or its oldest first-term president and first female vice president.
Voters were also making choices in a number of key House and Senate races that could determine whether the Democrats strengthen their hold on Congress.
“It feels great to be an American today. The best hour and a half of my life,” exclaimed Jude Elliot, an 8th-grade social studies teacher in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Elliot, who has been voting in Orangeburg since 1998, said it usually takes him five minutes to vote, but on Tuesday it took about 90 — and he arrived at 6:45 a.m.
“Polling station was packed — young, old, black, white, disabled, not,” he said. “It was amazing.”
But high turnout was not necessarily a theme at every polling station around the country.
“I was there at 10 in the morning, and I jokingly said the [entire] line was my wife — and that’s only because I let her through the door first ,” Nathan Grebowiec, a 27-year-old resident of Plainville, Kansas, said.
iReporter Jason Dinant also said there were no lines at his polling place in Syracuse, New York.
Most iReporters, however, said there were long lines and waits as they prepared to cast their ballots. Footage from Shoesmith Elementary in Chicago, Illinois — where Obama voted — and from Albright United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Arizona — where McCain voted — showed plenty of voters in line besides the presidential candidates.
iReporter Lindsey Miller, 23, votes at the same polling place as Obama. She said Secret Service agents were checking names off a list and using metal-detecting wands on some would-be voters as they entered the polling place. The line was around the block at 6 a.m., she said.
“A lot of people were in pajamas. I know I was — not the time you want to be on national TV,” the University of Chicago graduate student said.
iReporter Juan Bedoya Castano, 24, of Northampton, Pennsylvania, emigrated from Colombia to the United States 15 years ago, but he just became a citizen last month. He said he waited in line about an hour, texting his friends to remind them to vote as well.
“I’ve never voted for something and this actually means something,” Castano said.
Ronnie Senique, a math teacher from Landover, Maryland, said he, too, is voting his first U.S. presidential race. Senique is originally from the Bahamas, but he became a U.S. citizen about three years ago.
He got up well before dawn and was the first one at the polls when he arrived at 4:10 a.m., almost three hours before the polls opened. By the time he left, he said, “The lines were around the corner. They snaked around the school. They went into the street.”
Those standing in line to vote gave him a round of applause after he cast his first ballot in an American presidential election.
While most of the attention has been focused on the presidential race, the outcome of congressional elections across the country will determine whether the Democrats increase their clout on Capitol Hill.
Few predict that the Democrats are in danger of losing their control of either the House or the Senate, but all eyes will be on nearly a dozen close Senate races that are key to whether the Democrats get 60 seats in the Senate.
With 60 votes, Democrats could end any Republican filibusters or other legislative moves to block legislation.
Many political observers also predict that the Democrats could expand their majority in the House.
Voters will also weigh in on a number of ballot initiatives across the country, many of them focused on social issues like abortion and affirmative action.
As McCain and Obama, meanwhile, hit the campaign trail after casting their ballots.
McCain is scheduled to make visits to Grand Junction, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Colorado and New Mexico both voted for President Bush in 2004, but the latest polls have them leaning toward Obama.
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