Vol. 19,  No.  22 Nov.16 - Nov. 29,  2006


Local Voters Like Hillary and Other Lessons from Election Day


Armed with Dunkin’ Donuts and chocolate covered cherries, volunteers at a University Heights voting site readied themselves for a long day of helping voters.

Most of them dutifully showed up last Tuesday at IS 15 on Andrews Avenue before sunrise, a good half hour before polls opened in New York City at 6 a.m. And most of them, some in their golden years, others barely out of their teens, would stay until polls closed at 9 p.m.

“Nobody’s going anywhere,” said bubbly polling coordinator Donna Benjamin, a Belmont librarian whose kids attend IS 15, about her dedicated pool of poll workers.

By 9:30 a.m., the crew had helped some 100 voters cast their ballots at IS 15. It was a mature and diverse crowd. Elderly black and Hispanic women, some pushing walkers, others holding onto the arms of grandsons, made their choices for state and national positions.

Benjamin said the morning rush would be comprised of mostly seniors, while during the evening they would see more young adults and middle-aged voters.

“The seniors are out here doing it,” Benjamin said. “Those are the most reliable voters.”

While the rest of the nation waged a bitter partisan battle for both houses of Congress, voters in the northwest Bronx, a Democratic stronghold, seemed to agree on at least one choice.

“Hillary,” said one older Hispanic woman after casting her vote. “I voted for Hillary Clinton.”

Why? “I like Hillary.”

“She does good things for people,” echoed Maria Cabrera as she shuffled out of IS 15 holding onto her adult grandson.

Even when asked who they voted for in the state Senate race, which pitted indicted incumbent Democrat Efrain Gonzalez against unknown Conservative candidate Ernest Kebreau, people didn’t differentiate the contest from the U.S. Senate campaign and said they liked “Hillary.” In fact, most voters couldn’t name any of their state legislators. They voted Democrat regardless of who was running.

At around 10:30 a.m., the IS 15 site hit its first snag. Otis S. Thomas, a 36-year-old city worker, couldn’t understand why he wasn’t listed as a registered area voter.

In June, Thomas alerted the election board that he had moved to University Heights, but hadn’t heard a peep from the board since. Naturally, Thomas explained, he assumed the Board’s silence meant he would have to vote in his former Parkchester district. But when he went to his old polling site, they told him he wasn’t listed and that he should go vote in his new district. But he wasn’t listed there either.

“This is just like 2004, when my vote didn’t count,” Thomas said, throwing up his hands.

Benjamin quickly moved to avert the crisis. “Give him an affidavit,” she said.

Eventually, Thomas begrudgingly filled out an affidavit ballot. Later, outside of the school, Thomas vented about the how the Electoral College system is a joke and how Republicans are ruining the country.

“The Republicans are getting too happy. Getting real stupid. Give [Democrats] a chance again,” he said.

Even if the Democrats win, Thomas said, he might not be able to take it anymore. “If this country gets real stupid, I’m moving to Canada.”

Elsewhere on election morning, in North Fordham at the PS 46 polling station, youth volunteers from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition were collecting voters’ opinions on various issues in the organization’s first ever voter survey.

Carlos Cardenas, a voter who works in advertising and had lived in the area 20 years, said he voted straight down the Democratic line, but was pessimistic about politicians in general. He said politicians were mostly “concerned with being on TV. Once they achieve their goal of [getting elected] they go back to sleep.”

Why did he vote for all the Democrats then?

“If I don’t vote for them, it’s like a wasted vote,” he said.

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