At the Polls: Tales From Election Day

Posted on 04 November 2008

Lines were long this morning at schools, fire houses and community centers across the East End as voters were expected to turn out in record numbers to elect a new president and cast their ballots for a handful of local elections.

According to Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris the polls in the village were crowded early this morning when he stood several minutes on line shortly after polls opened before he cast his vote. On a trip to Southampton and back around 8:30 a.m. he noted long lines outside the North Sea Fire House on Noyac Road and at the Old Noyac School House, where cars were lined up on both sides of the road.

He commented he thought a police officer should be in the area, since people were darting back and forth across the road, and indeed an accident had already occurred.

By 1 p.m., the rush of voters had subsided, when this reporter went to the Old Noyac School House to cast his vote. One of the poll workers said a crowd had already formed by 5:30 a.m. when she showed up to make the polling place ready for the day’s voting.

Add a comment and let us know how your Election Day has been.

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17 Responses to “At the Polls: Tales From Election Day”

  1. Bryan Boyhan says:

    By Jim Henry
    Alex and I are canvassing in Philadelphia and then celebrating……There have been lots of voter irregularities here in the City of Brotherly Love, but the turnout
    is so massive that they’d have to rig the vote physically to prevent an Obama victory. Maybe that is in the cards, but I doubt it. Not if they don’t want to see another American Revolution.
    Late last night Gracie and I took a walk around Independence Hall, and stared for a few minutes at the Liberty Bell. “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land, for every inhabitant thereof,” it says.
    That’s asking a lot, we surely know .But it made us think a bit beyond ourselves, about all the difficult times this country has been through, and how, like that bell, deeply flawed, the country still manages to be a real symbol of human possibility. It’s hard to love a goddamn broken bell. But I sure do love my country for that.
    I’m more confident than most that we’ve made the right choice. But even if Obama proves to be a terrible President, he can’t be worse than what we’ve just been through for eight long years. And he might well do a pretty good job. In Minnesota, that is good enough for most people.
    But this election is not really about Obama. It is about the fact that right here in the midst of all our troubles, all the world’s insurmountable troubles, lots of ordinary Americans waked up this morning with a tiny smouldering ember of hope in their hearts, and went out to do the one thing they could to try and get things back on the road.
    They didn’t do it because they got paid to do it, or because they were required, or got the day off. They didn’t do it because it was all that much fun. They didn’t even do it because the eyes of the whole world are watching — which they are, expectantly.
    Objectively, as BF Skinner once said, the odds of getting hit by a car on the way to the polling booth are greater than their odds of making a difference in the vote. Might as well roll over in bed and go back to sleep.
    So this was not about that other great American motivator, private profit. It had to be about something else.
    So more than half of us voted anyway…. Millions of tiny little independent acts of irreligious faith, colliding with each other, adding up to something. Like an old cracked silent bell that still occasionally manages to ring.
    That’s pretty interesting, when you also consider all the reasons we the People still have no reason whatsoever to expect any serious changes for the better any time soon. Hard times. Tough choices. Powerful self-interested bastards still hard at work, only slightly less powerful than yesterday.
    So it’s quite amazing, actually, this act of irreligious faith. Borderline insane.
    At its best, though that’s what (the best) Americans do.
    Progressive insanity. Giving poor dumb people without any property the right to vote and the right to read newspapers. Provide every idiot the right to a basic education, and even trials by jury. Go marching straight through Selma. Making symbols out of broken bells.
    Dreaming up completely impossible things, and making them happen.
    Remembering that the real purpose of our story is not to make necessary what is possible, but possible what is necessary.
    Today was impossible. But now it’s here.
    If you can’t love that, you will never be a dog person. So make sure to get your ass out of bed and ring that goddamn broken bell.

    Jim Henry is an author, consultant and former Democratic candidate for Southampton Town Supervisor.

  2. Annette Hinkle says:

    My 7 year daughter got up on cue extra early this morning – 6:15 a.m. She was dressed and ready to go within minutes. I had promised to take her to the polls with me so she could pull the lever for president herself. She’s been really charged up about this campaign, paying close attention to all the commercials. Booing whenever the competition came on. Despite the predictions of crowded polling places, by 6:30 a.m. at the elementary school where we vote in East Hampton, it was quiet and serene. Just a handful of people coming and going as the fog began to lift off the surrounding fields – school wouldn’t start for another two hours. There was virtually no wait and we were in the booth within seconds. I pointed to the appropriate line and my daughter knew what to do. With a slight smirk on her face, she flipped the lever. I could see satisfaction radiating from her as we headed back out the parking lot. I don’t know why she has been so keenly aware of this election. As a rule, it’s not the kind of thing 7 year olds tend to discuss on the playground. Maybe it’s because she’s sensed my anger and outrage at what’s happened to this country over the course of the last eight years. Or maybe she just wants to like the candidate I do. Still, I can’t help thinking that my daughter truly believes that by pulling that lever this morning, she became not only a witness, but a real part of something that is truly historic. And that’s not something that comes along every day.

  3. Benito Vila says:

    Voting was easy enough after school; no lines; no waiting.

    I was surprised by the number of presidential candidates I’d never heard of and the number of political groups that submitted candidates. Who are these people? And poor old Ralph Nader; he was off solo at the bottom of the second column, far from the top and alone, by himself.

    The ballot at the local level led me to conclude that politics has become so difficult at the local level that no one is stepping forward to serve; there was often only one candidate for office, or in the case of the judges, just four to pick.

    If political discourse is cut short at the local level, how practiced can our leaders really be?

    Just a thought.

  4. mlynch says:

    This year voting is an especially important experience for me. I’ve voted in the past, and I have made sure that even when I was living out of town, state or country – that I filled out my absentee ballot. In fact, this is the first time in years I actually had the pleasure of returning to the polling place I originally voted at when I was 18. This election is important to me, not only for me and my husband, but for our six month old daughter. My husband is Australian, and does not have the right to vote – and my daughter obviously can’t – so everything was riding on me to do the right thing for us as a family as I cast that vote today.
    In Australia, it is mandatory to vote, and my husband looks forward to that day. But now that we have decided to set up our home and raise our family here – today has become an even more important day to him.
    As I drove into the North Sea Fire Department this afternoon, where I vote, I noticed an array of different cars in the lot and a wide range of people on line. It wasn’t only people my age and those younger, but there were also the elderly couples that make an effort to leave their homes on this day and involved in the political process. I noticed a mother who brought her daughter into the booth with her – and I thought – I want to do this, for me, for my husband, and for my daughter. And I can’t wait for the day where she is old enough to join me in that booth and learn how it works.
    It is not only a day for education, for change, and for inclusion – it’s a day where we can reflect on what happened in the past, and how so many people fought for woman and minorities to have the opportunity to vote.
    This is a day everyone should make the effort, for your kids, for your parents and for your friends. After choosing my candidates and hearing the sound – similar to that of a cash register and the curtains busting open – I felt proud. And I know if my daughter could talk she would say “thanks mom.”

  5. Kathryn Menu says:

    As a woman seven months pregnant with her first child – a daughter – the months leading up to this Election Day have been stressful to say the least. Despite years of faithful voting, whether for school board or President of the United States, this year’s race has had an air of importance to it I never felt as a carefree girl in her 20s.
    The anticipation for today has been palpable in our household, which is partly why my husband and I agreed to vote in the early morning, so we could share breakfast with my mother-in-law afterwards – all three of us tearing through Newsday, The New York Times and even the New York Post to read the latest on this political rollercoaster. My polling place in Springs, which is the same polling place I have voted at since I was 18 years old – save the handful of years I lived in New Orleans and North Carolina – had a bustle about it I have never seen before, although I still only had to wait roughly 15 to 20 minutes to pull the lever. One poll worker told me the crowd had been lining up and streaming in since 5:45 a.m. this morning.
    As I left, the elation I felt after casting my vote was mirrored in the eyes of others leaving the firehouse whether it was the elderly couple who voted before me, or the mother who brought her 16 year old daughter into the voting booth with her. Watching them I could not help but hope one day I will be able to bring my own daughter into the voting booth with me on an Election Day that has held as much excitement as this has.

  6. Kathleen Mulcahy says:

    I always enjoy voting in Sag Harbor, the short if not non-existent lines, the ease of finding my name, the checking to see who on my page that I know and which of them have voted – most had by 3:30 this afternoon. I look forward to it every year.

    Having been on-line most of the day before heading to the polls I had seen the pictures and read the tales of long waits, broken machines, and lost registrations. I voted for years in NYC and always had to allow hours for the line, this is one more plus to living and voting in the country. I also like to think that my vote is worth more here, I know the names and sometimes the faces of many of the local people on the ballot. I feel that I could call or write my congressman and I would expect an answer.

    This national campaign seemed too long and too negative. The current voting system with its electoral college and swing state focus makes it easy to want to not bother to register or to take the time to vote in some states. It disenfranchises voters before they even get to the polls. And certainly even ballot machines like the ones we used today, that I remember my mother using in the 60′s, are far from user friendly. Given the amount of crisis the next administration and congress will have to deal with, I doubt voting reform will come to the fore, but if we can begin to improve the process bit by bit, hopefully our children will be able to experience the ease of a Sag Harbor voting process and the value of a vote that counts.

  7. Pat Brandt says:


    I went to vote on my way to work. There was a steady stream of people but a very minimal wait time. It was exciting to be voting in this historic election.
    I was surprised that the ballot was so easy, I guess after this campaign season I expected something much more complicated. I only wish I could have brought my grandson with me. It is the only thing that could have enhanced the experience.

  8. Colin Ambrose says:





  9. Patricia Weiss says:

    Thank you, Bryan. Great idea. I loved reading everyone’s comments. It makes me think about the personal experiences of voting that our forefathers must have imagined when they designed the election process over two centuries ago. Early this morning I had a conversation with my friend Caroline Whelan, who was stopping at Java Nation to have a cup of coffee on her way to the polls in North Haven. She reminded me that her great, great, great (add a few more “greats” here) grandfather was Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the President of the Continental Congress. Lots to think about.

    We are lucky here that the lines are not so long. I think that it would be a good idea if people in every state had the option to vote using an “express” machine that had only the ballot for federal offices. The line for that machine would be shorter and move along more quickly than what we are seeing in many states. I hear that the lines in Florida are 4 to 6 hours long, with no parking spaces available today, due, in part, to the state and local municipalities adding on so many long-winded propositions that the average voter does not easily understand and may decide to read for the first time once inside the voting booth. States that do not provide adequate voting accomodations should not be permitted to de-rail the federal voting process by creating long lines and thus discouraging voting on the very important federal election day.
    Probably, we need for the federal government to provide standard voting machines for the federal elections in each state, and then leave it up to each state to decide how to handle the rest of the ballot.

  10. I vote at North Haven Village Hall and while waiting on line i changed my Facebook status to “I’m on line to vote.” I signed in and was surprised no one asked me for ID, but the woman did ask me for my address, which apparently matched what she had in the records, so they let me vote. I made a stupid, silly joke, asking “How many times can I vote?” but no one laughed and asked me to move along or according to New York State law John McCain would automatically get my vote, which incented me to scurry into the voting booth. I closed the curtain, said a prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to have born at this time, in this country, and to be able to exercise my rights and vote, and then i flipped the switch and rechecked to make sure I really had voted for the right guy. I opened the curtain, made another joke that I couldn’t get the machine to flush, and when no one laughed again, I left. Walking to my truck I changed my Facebook status to “I voted, et vous?” But then I thought that sounded too elitist, and, frankly, I don’t speak French, so if someone responded I wouldn’t have understood, and, come on, this was an election for the American president, so I changed my Facebook status again to read, “I voted, and you?” I started the truck and pulled away listening to Gary Puckett and the Union Gap singing, “Young Girl,” and headed into town.

  11. Brenda Siemer Scheider says:

    Dear Bryan and Co.

    I arrived at 8:30 am and found few people as yet in line. By 9:30 the picture had dramatically changed. The parking lot was full! I was terribly glad that I didn’t live in Virginia and would need to wait 5 to 6 hours in the rain. Then vote on paper, attempt to have it scanned only to find that it had jammed the machine! Those ballets were set aside to “dry” before they would be counted later. Wonder where they are now?

    Instead I went right on in, reporting to the wrong table for my district. I gave them my name. I was greeted by an “oh, yes..” and then asked if I was related to Roy Scheider. I proudly reported that I am his wife. Another dear woman told me that the last time Roy voted ” I was able to shake his hand.” She had her hand over her heart as she told me that. It was one of those moments that I will never forget. You know why? Because Roy Scheider would have been the happiest man in the world to be able to vote for Barack Obama, a man he long admired but feared the American people “would not be able to vote for at the end of the day.” Well, he died in February this year and never lived to see that the sheer will power of Obama’s beliefs would come to steer this country into not only historic, but authentic change.
    I was proud to cast my vote for Roy and myself. And our 18 year old son Christian cast his very first vote today. Lucky us.

  12. Cindy Capalbo says:

    i went to the polling booth at 8 am at the Noyac school house. It was busy but moving along at a fast pace. driving past the polling places It was nice to see all the people coming out to vote. it was a moment where you were proud to be an American no matter “who” you voted for. It truly is a blessing to be able to vote – thank you for that.

    After voting – I went to work, picked up my kids after school and there first words were “did you vote Mom” it is wonderful that our schools are teaching kids to be so interested and they even had class votes. God Bless America!!

  13. Bonnie Wingate Jackson says:

    A beautiful autumn day here in Dearborn, Michigan. As I woke very early this morning, my thoughts were that I would have a chance at being one of the first voters of the day. My son accompanied me with hopes that his vote would make a difference. We stood in line, fifteen from the door. Time went quickly as I listened to some of the conversations which focused on education. There were several teachers in line, talking about what a rough year it has been concerning the high numbers of students in each class. Teachers everywhere are facing the extreme challenge of educating children with a variety of achievement and ability levels within each classroom of 30 to 35 students. We all wonder if maybe this will be the election that makes a difference for everyone somehow.

    My son and I voted. I purchased an apple pie at the Election Day Bake Sale. On the way out the door, we noticed that a crowd of about 65 people were lined up. Thank goodness we got up early and that our weather was sunny and warm today for everyone waiting outside.

    I dropped Chris off at home and took off for school. School was closed for students today, but our district required us to attend Professional Development Workshops. The buzz words all morning revolved around voting. Everyone is anxious for it to be over with so we can all move forward.

    So life today here has been much the same as there. I heard that the weather there has been nice. Nina Trunzo called me and said that voting was not a problem. It is about 8 p.m. right now. Everyone is now waiting for the end results. Michigan is predominately a Democratic state, so we’ll see what happens.

    Thanks for the opportunity to make some comments. Let freedom ring and I am so glad to be an American. I am also glad I grew up in Sag Harbor. I’ll be home for Christmas!

  14. Ellen Dioguardi says:

    I was sorry that the cars zipping along on Noyac Road at 9am this morning didn’t slow down more carefully for those of us parked precariously along the roadside and making our way to the School House to vote. There was a short line – not a big deal – I waited and upon entering saw a few familiar faces (of course) there’s Connie who always works the polls for the school board votes – I’ve been locked in that gym with her and others on more than one occasion – and there’s a neighbor and so many faces I know but not names – and then I see across the room a dear friend who I don’t see so often. She lives in Hampton Bays but here she is working the table in her American Flag sweater – I have to smile and wave – we greet with an embrace and both smile BIG – we know who we’re going to see win tonight – and we’re optimistic for the first time in a while. I tell her my husband will be by but late and she’ll be long gone – she smiles and goes back to work. I am reminded that on 9/11 this same friend was donating blood and rolling bandages while many of us were wandering around in a daze – she’s a good citizen – at 7:45pm when I finally get home from work I asked my husband if he saw our friend at the polls – figuring she must have gone home at some point earlier. Yes, he saw her, 6:45 about 12 hours after she arrived to work the table and she gave him a BIG hello. My husband is the friendliest man on earth and was so happy to get a grand greeting when he went to vote. I know there’s typically some small stipend paid to those who work the polls but as I recall it’s not a big deal. You’ve got to have some strong sense of community to sit in a hot, stuffy room looking up thousands of last names for 12 hours. It’s one of the things I love about our East End – chances are when you see people doing things you admire it turns out you know a few of them.

  15. Deb Skinner says:

    My husband and I arrived at the Noyac School house to vote around 7:15am. We met friends and neighbors and our wait in line was no more than 5 to 10 minutes. Quick and easy, as usual.

    The real problem was the two part process of getting absentee ballots to our three voting age children at college. It was a learning experience for all of us. We requested an application be sent to all three, nearly 1 month before Election Day. I found out we could have picked them up from the post office and placed them in an envelope ourselves and they would have arrived in 2 days. Also found out you can download them.

    With a week to 10 days to go, none had received their ballots. I called again. Someone at Board of Elections said they were sent. “Give me a name”, he said, I gave her my daughters name and he said we sent that one March 6th. Impossible, said I, she was only a senior in HS then and had no idea where she would attend college. “That’s what the computer said”, he said “so that’s the way it is! This election is going to be scary”, I replied. Anyway, all three received their ballots with 4 days to go and sent them off the Friday prior to. Lessons learned and now we know.

  16. Eric Cohen says:

    When I voted at noon, I was the only voter at the polling station (ED1), which I thought was very odd, but the election inspectors said that there had been a heavy early turnout, with about half a dozen people waiting for the doors to open at 6:00 a.m.

    I also served as a poll watcher from 5:00 p.m. until the polls closed. There was a “rush” of people between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., resulting in short lines for some, but only a sprinkling of voters after that. I was surprised. The rough figures, according to one of the election inspectors was that 76% of registered voters in ED1 voted this year, which is higher than average. Not remarkable for Sag Harbor, but compared to national averages for other years, quite something.

    However, if you judge the day by the level of excitement and anticipation, I’d say it was the most remarkable election day I’ve ever participated in. Also, in spite of the sometimes bitter tone of the campaign, I found most people, regardless of party, were in an upbeat, and cooperative mood — except the one guy who couldn’t contain his bitterness and complained to the election inspectors about there being signs in Spanish in the polling place. This in spite of the fact that I believe two of the inspectors were Latino. The aggrieved voter lodged his complaint with a Caucasian inspector, of course. However, this was an anomaly in an otherwise very smooth election process.

    I compliment the election inspectors at EDs 1 and 21 for the high degree of professionalism they displayed. Their concern that every voter got his or her chance to vote, and that all were treated fairly and with dignity was heartening. I think our election process redeemed itself this year after a few rocky elections. I’m breathing a little easier today with regard to the state of our democracy.

  17. Which party controls Congress? which the White House? The answer reveals the “balance of power” between both branches of government that are fitted with elected officials. Contrary that will popular belief, most of times in modern political history Congress and the President have been on odds; that is, the identical political party has not typically controlled the whitened House, the Senate, and also the House of Representatives. Only 10 times considering 1945 have both branches of Congress along with the Presidency been controlled because of the same party.

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