WASHINGTON – Stephanie Hendricks,38,who has voted in the same precinct for 13 years,said she has never seen the polls so crowded. The turnout at her Northwest Washington precinct impressed Hendricks,who thinks the sight of long lines at the polls is encouraging.
“People are more motivated to vote,” said Hendricks,a public relations consultant. “People are more energized.”
Hendricks and thousands of other voters participated in what has come to be called the Potomac Primary,with the District of Columbia,Maryland and Virginia all holding primaries on the same day and early enough in the process to have an effect on the outcome.
Elections boards in all three jurisdictions said last week they were preparing for a heavier-than-normal turnout. Late Tuesday afternoon,several hours before the polls closed,they said it seemed as thought their predictions were accurate but that it was too early for specific numbers.
Maryland's Board of Elections projected the Democratic turnout at 44 percent and Republican turnout at 29 percent.
Republicans in the Mid-Atlantic region were voting to choose 119 delegates – 19 from D.C.,37 from Maryland and 63 from Virginia.
Democrats were vying for 237 delegates – 37 from D.C.,99 from Maryland and 101 from Virginia.
Mary Spencer,47,of Washington,said she usually votes only in the general election. Like Hendricks,she was voting at Oyster Elementary School in an upscale,mostly white neighborhood.
A paralegal at a law firm,Spencer changed her registration from independent to Democrat so she could vote. D.C. does not allow independents to vote in party primaries.
Spencer said she,like other Democrats,is ready for a change.
“I think people are tired of old white men,” said Spencer,who cast her vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
“I wanted a woman in the office,” she said. “I think it's historic.”
While both candidates can offer the change she thinks the nation needs,she said Clinton has the experience to pull through and reverse the effects of the Bush administration.
Hendricks,the PR consultant,voted for a Republican candidate the first year she voted in the District,where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-to-1.
The poll workers “had to go hunt down a Republican ballot” at 9:30 a.m. because no one had asked for one yet. This year,the name on her ballot was Sen. Barack Obama.
“When you hear him talk,he talks more about what we can do than what's wrong,” Hendricks said.
She also said that since the U.S. has had a Clinton or Bush in office for nearly 20 years,Obama offers a refreshing alternative.
Another voter who agreed with this view is Rueben Salters. He was voting across town,at a police station in a largely black,middle class neighborhood.
As a little boy,Salters,now 71 and a freelance artist,said he remembers hearing his granddad talk about blacks not being able to cast a ballot. Salters said he “always votes” in primaries and general elections because he was taught to take advantage of that right.
“Of the two,I think he would do more for people like me,the little guy,” he said after voting for Obama.
To him,the election has nothing to do with race or gender. He said he will vote for the Democratic nominee in November,regardless of who wins the primary. He has followed both candidates in speeches and debates on television.
“I listen to both of them,” he said. “I'm just as concerned with her as I was with him.”
With the Potomac Primary nearly complete,the two candidates were looking to the next states with contests. Clinton was scheduled to speak Tuesday night at the University of Texas at El Paso,and Obama was to campaign at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.