Hampton citizens, students arrive at polls before dawn
By Jared Council
HAMPTON, Va. — Outside the Woodlands Golf Course at 3:47 a.m., on a rainy Tuesday, Nov. 4, signs of life were present, as well as signs of anticipation for the final lap of a U.S. presidential race that’s lasted for nearly two years.
“I couldn’t wait much longer,” said 44-year-old Steve Bell of Hampton, standing first in line under a pavilion with his umbrella closed. “I’d rather get up early and wait for the polls to open than wait in line when the polls will be packed.”
Edwards was on line two hours before the 6 a.m. poll opening.
Some didn’t have to get up early. Justin Edwards, a senior business management major at Hampton University, stayed up and watched the night sky as his four friends slept in his car.
“I was already up,” Edwards said, “So I figured since I’m going to be up, I might as well stay up to vote.” He and his friends were the first HU students at Woodlands Golf Course, arriving at 1:30 a.m.
By 4 a.m., the dark-purple sky remained the same hue; but the activity under this sky grew as people from all over came to get in line early to vote.
Bobbette Raimey, 50, left Silver Spring, Md., at 1 a.m. to return to Hampton to vote. She returned because she recently moved to Maryland from Hampton and she thought that registering to vote in another state might be risky.
“I didn’t want to hear any reasons to as to why I couldn’t vote,” Raimey said, this being her first time voting since she earned the right. Raimey’s zeal to avoid any voting conflicts even caused her to delay changing her last name despite her recent marriage.
While people like Raimey traveled from out of state, a considerable amount of Hampton students traveled from their dorms and from the Harbors, only 500 yards away. They left their candidate paraphernalia but brought along school wardrobe. Being young and black and wearing their Hampton hoodies, HU students made the voting line look like a homecoming concert ticket line.
At 5:30 a.m., there were 77 HU students out of more than 100 people in line. At 6 a.m. when the polls opened, there were 164 HU students in the L-shaped line that spanned the length of the side of the parking lot.
Some who weren’t HU students but had ties to the university showed up to vote too.
Cora M. Reid, who works in the Harvey Library, graduated from Hampton in 1944 and had a father and a grandfather who went there. Reid said she got up early to vote because she wants to see a black president. “I hope I will,” she said.
Majorie Sale, a 58-year-old pipe designer from Hampton, was a McCain supporter. She told her boss she would be late for work at 5 a.m. in order to vote.
While nearly 250 people lined up before polls opened, voters who showed up afterward, like Michael Riddick, anticipated and accepted the long lines.
“We’ve waited for days to vote,” said Riddick. “What’s a few hours?”
The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.