As contentious as this election cycle has been this time around, I half expected that my tour of polling places today would be fraught with battling poll watchers and political ideologues at each others' throats. I'm happy to say it was, in fact, downright delightful.
I missed most of the longer lines of the early morning, but poll workers were pleased to tell me all about it and how smoothly it was going – except for a few isolated incidents.
It turns out earlier in the morning (probably before folks had a chance to have their coffee and were a bit cranky), the political discourse got a bit heated over at the Stewart Middle School poll and some harsh words were exchanged. A similar incident happened at Eisenhower Middle School as well, but no one had to be ejected from any polls today as far as I know.
I checked in with Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono this afternoon who reported that his officers didn't have any election related calls this morning that he knew of.
"I got a voicemail... from a guy who says a poll watcher at Stewart Middle School put his hand on him," said Chief Bono. "He said he's a handicapped person and apparently the school wasn't handicapped accessible."
For the record, there is a ramp up to the door at the Stewart Middle School polling location. I nearly tripped over it just this morning.
The chief himself voted this morning at Paul Fly Elementary and said he waited in line about a half hour.
The lines were probably the most troublesome thing for most voters today. Some reported waiting up to an hour to vote, but most seemed begrudgingly happy to be able to exercise their right, regardless of the inconvenience. Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, Eisenhower Middle School and the Laborers' International Union Hall had some of the longest lines of the day.
Outside of Union Hall, I ran into former Norristown Municipal Councilmember David Hodo who was volunteering for the Democrats. I heard Hodo offer to help both Democratic and Republican voters navigate the ballot and when I asked him about his willingness to reach across the aisle, he explained that when his father was growing up in Georgia, he couldn't vote. When he finally could vote, Hodo said his father never missed an election.
"I believe in the system," said Hodo. "Whether your Democrat or Republican, I'll help you out here at the polls. That's what I've been doing."
You can hear Hodo's full comments in our Video section.
I also had occasion to stop in the county Election Board offices at One Montgomery Plaza this afternoon where Director Joseph Passarella said things were going pretty smoothly. I could help but notice that the phones were ringing off the hook and folks were buzzing around frantically, but I suppose that's to be expected on Election Day.
Talking to voters in person and via Facebook, one of the most prolific complaints I heard was of poll workers asking for ID. While Photo ID wasn't required to vote, poll workers were only asking as part of the state's plan to ease voters into the habit for the next election cycle.
Matthew Keeler, press secretary for the PA Department of State, told Patch that it was part of the plan.
"Voters are not required to show an ID or to have one," said Keeler. "But they are going to be asked if they have one by poll workers. We view this as a soft rollout for when Pennsylvania's voter ID law is in full effect next year."
Despite a report I heard later in the evening that folks were turned away from the poll at St. Patrick's, the judge there assured me that no one was turned away from her poll.
The only real issues that seemed to plague polls today were outdated voting district maps and folks showing up at the wrong polls and either being sent to another poll or given a provisional ballot. Larger issues regarding more strenuous Voter ID requests, properly credential poll watchers being blocked from the polls and dodgy touch voting machines were reported in other parts of our region, but we seemed to get off easy in the Norristown area. If you saw any problems at the polls today, tell us about it in the Comments section. I'd love to hear about it.
Another note from Norristown – I noticed a distinct lack of Republican signage and volunteers at several of the polls today. I thought the GOP considered Pa. in play, but as my colleague, Perkiomen Valley Patch editor Brittany Tressler, noted, Republicans apparently consider Pennsylvania fools' gold. Or maybe they just consider Norristown a lost cause. If anyone's got any theories about that, I'd love to hear them as well.
I think Election Day is quickly becoming my favorite day. It's a busy day that keeps me on the road and on my toes, but it's also a day when I meet some of the most positive and energized residents who are just thrilled to be part of the process. I enjoy spending the day meeting and talking with all of them and I'm happy to be able to report some great news out of Norristown.
Check out some of our photos from the polls today.