Super Tuesday 2020: Hampton Roads Goes To The Polls
- Written by Rebecca Feldhaus Adams
- Category: Local News
- Published: 03 March 2020
Last Updated at 7:18 p.m. -- Polls are now closed.
The Virginia Democratic primary polls are open this Super Tuesday. Virginians will cast their vote for the candidate they want to face President Donald Trump in the November general election. The Commonwealth has open primaries, meaning any registered voter can vote today, regardless of their party.
WHRO reporters and producers are working across Hampton Roads today, talking to voters and checking in on polling places.
In Portsmouth, voter turnout steady
Precinct officials at Grove Baptist Church in Portsmouth said that turnout was steady all day.
The Churchland neighborhood had one of the highest voter turnouts in the city of in the 2016 Presidential election.
And as the rain started to fall this afternoon, Sandra Jordan, a member of the church, said she came out to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden.
“He stood by our first black president for the last eight years, and I’m gonna support him. It wasn’t even a doubt in my mind,” she said.
This precinct went to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Eric Ridley said he’s continuing his support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“They just did my man dirty. I don’t know why they’re scared of what he has to say or what his political agenda might be. But yeah, as far as his electability, I don’t see a problem with it. I think a lot of people will still see Bernie for who he is and his values.”
Voters in Suffolk disagree on candidates
There was a steady stream of people casting ballots at polling places in Suffolk. Many voters were split on who should be president.
Leslie Rinaldi and her husband voted at Northern Shores Elementary. She said her husband is supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But she voted for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren because she likes her policies.
“Social policies. Policies that affect all Americans,” Rinaldi said. “Healthcare. Consumer protection, truth in lending, reducing the school to prison pipeline... I’ve always liked her.”
Rinaldi and several other voters said they would support anyone who wins the nomination and faces Trump.
James Shiels lll was less sure.
He supported Trump in the 2016 election but voted for Sanders Tuesday afternoon at the North Suffolk Public Safety Center in the Harbourview area.
He appreciates Sanders’ commitment to making medicare free for everyone and reducing college tuition costs.
Still Shiels lll said he wants to see Sanders and Trump debate before deciding who he would support in the general election.
“If Donald Trump is your crazy drunk uncle, Bernie Sanders is the pastoral uncle who’s just been doing it,” Shiels lll said. “They’ve been in the real world long enough that in the end it’s just going to look really good when they’re both up on that stage and they’re talking to each other.”
“It’s like fight night 2020,” he added.
Mid-day voters trickle in
Lunchtime on the Peninsula turned out to be a lot like morning voting: Not many people, but steady enough to keep elections officials occupied.
At the Phoebus Library in Hampton, a few more than 100 people had voted by noon. It's a low-turnout area anyway, volunteers at the polling place said.
I met Gwen and Sharon earlier in Hampton. They both voted for Biden, but would be willing to vote for anyone - or anything- that runs against President Trump. pic.twitter.com/BWuc4wpDmM— mechelle 🕵🏽♀️ hankerson (@mechelleh) March 3, 2020
In other parts of Hampton and downtown Newport News, voters hurried in and out, rushing to get back to work.
Most didn't have lines to wait in and delays were minimal.
Smooth sailing statewide so far
Virginia’s Super Tuesday started without problems, according to state Commissioner of Elections Chris Piper. So far, it’s been one of the “smoothest elections” he’s overseen.
There aren’t turnout estimates yet, but there is a lot of interest based on how many voters requested absentee ballots, Piper said.
Just over 80,000 Virginians requested absentee ballots ahead of today’s primary election. More than 54,000 of those have been returned as of yesterday.
It’s about twice as many absentee ballots requested for the 2016 election. But that doesn’t mean more people are voting – absentee voting has steadily gained popularity in recent years, Piper said.
Right now, voters in the state have to provide a reason for voting absentee. Most of the requested absentee ballot applications cited personal business or vacation keeping them from voting in-person, according to state elections data.
Students in the state were the second-largest group requesting absentee ballots.
Slow start in Chesapeake
Voting in Chesapeake’s Greenbrier area was slow, but steady in the early hours of Super Tuesday.
In the 6 a.m. hour, voters were able to get in and out of the polling place at the Greenbrier Public Library within five minutes. There were no lines or campaign volunteers. There was one sign for Sanders.
A few miles away in South Norfolk, the story was the same. The area was one of the most Democratic in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Telia Neal is a first-time primary voter. She said she picked former Vice President Joe Biden because she’s concerned Sanders, the other front-runner, isn’t in good enough health.
Biden is 77. Sanders is 78.
“I know I shouldn’t be focused too much on health … but I look at the age difference,” Neal said. “Maybe we can have somebody in office … who is a little more competitive and reliable.”
Neal said she plans to vote for the Democratic nominee even if it’s not her preferred candidate.
“I would like Trump out of office,” she said. “He’s just not concerned enough about the most important stuff, especially middle class people and I feel like it’s time for him to go.”
Up early in Virginia Beach
Don Sutton has worked with elections, "since the Bushes." Sutton retired from the Navy and decided to work with the U.S. Census. After that, he got a taste for the democratic process and decided to work part time with elections. And the team he works with has been together a long time, he said.
It's a long day for poll workers. Their goal is to ensure that every registered voter who wants to vote can. Even if they show up at the wrong precinct. Smiling enthusiastically, Sutton pointed out a tablet device sitting next to sample ballots on a table. If a voter shows up at the wrong place, he can look up where they should go, and direct them there.
"It's like Google Maps," Sutton said.
A steady trickle of voters shuffled through the polls during the 6 o'clock hour. By 6:05 a.m., seven people had already voted. Three of them were poll workers. Sutton doesn't expect high turnout today, mostly because he hasn't seen a lot of political signage ahead of election day.
"The signs out here today, they’re ones we put up to vote," Sutton said of the signs outside Mount Olive Baptist Church. "I don’t see any candidate signs, and that’s usually what gets peoples’ attention as they pass. They’ll see that, and they’ll turn in."