David Cox | Notes from the polling place
Before last Tuesday’s election fades totally into memory — not that it will — I’ll share a few observations of various sorts in no particular order …
At least in Lexington, the process of voting went swimmingly. Registrar of Voters Carol Rendleman and the Electoral Board obviously took great pains to make sure it would. They succeeded admirably. Standing outside the polls virtually from their opening to the very last minutes, I didn’t think anyone had to wait more than a half-hour and then only in early morning. By noon and thereafter, voters were in and out in five to ten minutes. I heard of only one glitch, with human error the culprit.
Turnout was appropriately heavy: Of active voters, nearly 74 percent turned out in the city, 65 percent in Buena Vista and, most impressive of all, 76 percent in Rockbridge County. Pretty good, folks!
Among my most moving moments came in greeting a woman some years older than me who was voting for the very first time, and rather apprehensive about the experience. I assured her that the good people inside would answer any questions and make sure she cast her ballot as she decided. When she returned, we agreed, “it felt good.” Indeed it did, for me too to share her experience.
The daughter of Jeanne Piersol wondered if her mother, age 98, was the oldest Lexingtonian to vote. She may well be. There are three on the registered rolls who are older, all centenarians, but I don’t know if they cast their ballots. Mrs. Piersol did, on the Saturday before. Good for her. In four more years, she’ll be one of those centenarians; let’s hope she’ll be able to vote that time, too.
On the other end of the age spectrum, great was the excitement of those who were old enough to vote for the first time. Some were students and cadets: In fact, around 250 from Washington and Lee and VMI are registered to vote in Lexington. I don’t know how many actually did. But together they comprise about 7.5% of the entire city electorate. Can we hope that they will vote in non-Presidential years? Stay tuned to next year’s gubernatorial extravaganza, which (political junkies rejoice, all others maybe not) begins right away.
As things totaled, our three jurisdictions went for John McCain, but only by a 53-47 percent split. Compare that with, say, Augusta-Staunton-Waynesboro, which produced a landslide for McCain-Palin, 63-37 percent. But the coattails didn’t help Gilmore except in Augusta (where, incidentally, turnout was 78 percent of active voters). Mark Warner won with a 53-47 percent margin up north, and swamped Gilmore in the Rockbridge region with a 65-35 percent rout. The moral? Democrats are suddenly competitive in the Valley, and a rare few can even win.
Closer to home, Mimi Elrod became Lexington’s mayor-elect with an impressive win. Since Mary Harvey ran as well, electing our first woman mayor was guaranteed. To my knowledge, Marylin Alexander is the first African-American to serve on Lexington’s city council. The fact that during the race hardly anyone mentioned such things says something very positive, I think, about how we have moved beyond race and gender to consider, instead, the issues involved, the talents candidates bring, and as Dr. King dreamed, the content of their character.
And now a personal word. I was honored to be on the ballot during this history-making election — for history would have been made regardless of which candidates won as President/Vice-President, and as Mayor. I was honored again when voters emerged from the rescue squad building, giving me a thumbs-up, a nod, or a word that said, “I voted for you”: what a profoundly gratifying expression of confidence one receives. And I am genuinely thankful to the voters of Lexington who gave me, along with Bob Lera and Marylin Alexander, the opportunity of serving on your city’s council. The challenges are clear, but so are the opportunities.
As well, I commend Mary Harvey, Jack Page, and Ron Smith for standing for office, in the latter two cases having served with great distinction on council. There was hardly any spirit of competitiveness but, instead, a mutual appreciation for what each offered. I hope each will continue offering their talents to our community.
I hope, too, that we as an area will find new collaboration, and along with the nation a renewed sense of hope for the future. With all the enormous challenges come tremendous opportunities. Together we can rise to the occasion: Yes, indeed, we can.
– Column by David Cox