Just by standing outside the polling station at PS 46 in North Fordham, there was no denying the positive energy surging through the crowds. Voters waiting in a line that often filed out through the main entrance, spilling onto the street, created an electric atmosphere that both onlookers and organizers said they had never seen before.
By the time I made it over to the polling station this morning, the lines may have thinned—for the most part voters were able to get in and out of the voting booths in around 15 minutes— since the “before-work-rush” to the polls. But the excitement of those coming and leaving the school hadn’t wavered, probably best exemplified by one exiting voter who proudly yelled, proclaiming to no one in particular, “I feel very good about what I just did!”
According to Jose Pizarro, who identified himself as the station's coordinator, his location is “having a very good turnout,” and one that started to show its strength as early as an hour before the polls opened. “When I pulled up at 5am the line was out around the corner,” Pizarro said, adding that he expects the after-work rush to pick up around 4pm. Between the eight voting machines inside, the coordinator said there were already about 200 votes on each machine as of 11:30 this morning. Expecting a record turnout, Pizarro said this number was bolstered by “a lot of first timers, a lot of young people, and a lot of older people.”
Of the almost 1600 votes that were registered before noon, two came from the mother-daughter team of Cynthia and Camille Newell. Cynthia, who arrived at the polls at 8am, cast her ballot and was taking in the scene at the polling station when her daughter joined her an hour later. Off from work for the day and dressed in her “Vote or Die” t-shirt, the 25-year-old Camille had given her vote for President to Barack Obama. “We need a change,” said the younger Newell. “People really see that they have a choice this time.”
“It’s never been like this before,” said Cynthia Newell. “Some [voters] are first timers, some have been registered but normally don’t vote, but its this year’s presidential election” that is drawing crowds to the polls.
Both Newells said that the economy was an issue they expected to be addressed by whoever takes control of the White House for the next four years. “It’s not just one group of people. Everybody is hurting,” said Cynthia. "We need to help those college kids that are trying to find a job.”
By and large everything ran smoothly inside of PS 46; it was outside the building that the operations could have been run more efficiently. There are “not enough people working outside,” pointed out Camille Newell. “People don’t know about the side entrance.” That entrance, equipped with a ramp, was largely underutilized. The lack of volunteers providing direction outside the main entrance, and the lack of appropriate signage—none, if you approached from the south along Briggs Ave.—caused problems for the occasional elderly voter who had difficulty making it up the stairs and into the building. Pizarro did a good job of assisting these voters when he was on-scene, but most voters did not know about the handicapped accessible side entrance.
As a Fordham University student relatively new to Bronx politics, standing with a couple of the other onlookers assembled outside of PS 46 throughout the morning was not only a unique experience in my life, but, just as importantly, fun. Coming from out-of-state, I mailed in my absentee ballot about two weeks ago. There was no way I was going to let this election, the first Presidential election where I have had the opportunity to voice my opinion at the polls, pass without casting my vote. But by voting through the mail and in the silence of my apartment I missed out on the other side of voting, the sense of community felt as you cast your vote, not as an individual, but as part of something bigger than yourself. Today, by watching and reporting on the residents of North Fordham vote in what should be record numbers, I felt like part of that community's expression of their hopes for the future.