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HomeNewsArchivesAtmosphere Celebratory at St. Croix Polls

Atmosphere Celebratory at St. Croix Polls

Nov. 4, 2008 — Election day had a festive feeling on St. Croix as hundreds of senatorial backers lined the sidewalks in front of the polls singing jingles, chanting slogans, dancing and shouting out candidates' ballot numbers.
Tables under tents had food and drinks set up for the volunteers. Government workers and public school children even had the day off.
Sen. Terrence "Positive " Nelson drove from one polling spot to another in a gold Ford Quest minivan plastered all over with his campaign bumper stickers and signs. From loudspeakers on top of the van blared the Bob Marley song "One Love."
"I'm truly excited about this election," Nelson said. "Voters have really scrutinized the candidates in this election. They are serious about choosing 'Team St. Croix.'"
The numbers at 10 a.m. were pretty typical for senate elections, said Velette Lang-Alleyne, a 30-year polling station volunteer at Juanita Gardine Elementary School. Almost 400 people had voted there so far Tuesday, she said.
"We had a large crowd at 7 when we opened," Lang-Alleyne said. "There are certain times when we get busy — like opening, lunch time and then the after-work crowd."
At Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School, Jan Mitchell, well-known glass artist, was on her way in to cast her vote.
"In the States, Barack Obama is asking for change," Mitchell said. "I hope change will filter down here."
One voter lamented V.I. residents' lack of a voice in the big race.
"I'm disappointed that we can't vote for president," resident Pam Lancaster said. "But there is a great selection of candidates running today. It is very important for all Virgin Islanders to exercise their right to vote."
Emily Marsh, 25, has voted in every election since she was 18, even doing absentee ballots while in college.
"Women are given the right to vote so — I'll always vote and voice my choice," Marsh said.
At the Florence A. Williams Library in Christiansted, the backers had a good spot in the shade of galleries across the street from the library. No electioneering is allowed within a certain distance of the polling stations. One Rastafarian man held campaign signs for Kendall "Seigo" Petersen, Adelbert Bryan and Wayne James.
Groups of volunteers in purple, red, yellow and chartreuse T-shirts handed candidates' pamphlets and flyers to people going to cast votes.
"By now people usually know who they are voting for," said Michelle Thurland-Martinez, sister of candidate Michael Thurland.
Over at Claude O. Markoe Elementary in Frederiksted, the atmosphere out front was festive, with many supporters waving signs and wearing T-shirts for their favored candidates.
Randall Parris of Frederiksted was there to show his support for Ronald Russell.
"Russell, he is the only one I see right now stepping up to the challenge of the flow of guns into the community," Parris said. "He alone is sending that message that it must stop. The bottom line is guns and violence are the main thing standing in the way of the good life here on St. Croix. Health and education are critical, too.
Micah Barnaby, a Frederiksted teenager, is too young to vote, but he volunteered at Russell's booth Tuesday.
"I'm for Russell, Nelson, Weber and everybody," he said. "And if I could, I'd vote for Obama today."
Jo Ann Murphy, a 30-year resident of St. Croix, was there to back Craig Barshinger.
"He's an honest guy, and he did a lot for St. Croix," Murphy said. "When he was a senator he did so much positive for St. Croix. He got the sexual-harassment law passed, he brought tourism back to St. Croix. He understands something needs to be done about property taxes, especially on St. John. He will be positive for St. Croix and the entire Virgin Islands."
It was quieter inside the polling place than outside.
"For a general election, it should have been more crowded," said Election Inspector Alda Francis. "Earlier, when the polls opened, there was more of a crowd as people came to vote before work. But since 9 or 10, it's been more of a trickle."
Multiple factors probably kept the crowds away, she said.
"I think there is more focus on the national election," Francis said. "But also there is no governor being elected. Still, the general election is usually big. I think people are at home focused on CNN today."
Others agreed.
"People are paying more attention to Obama than the local election," Parris said.
Over at Alexander Henderson Elementary in Concordia, an even larger crowd of supporters manned the tents leading to the entrance. There was the feel of a fair in the air. Sen. Ronald Russell drove up the line, sending greetings through the megaphone assembly mounted on in his campaign truck.
"I hope you all are enjoying yourselves, it's a wonderful afternoon today," his voice boomed. Then he praised a half-dozen candidates by name, urging voters to support several incumbents.
Russell and campaign volunteers from several candidates got into a friendly debate about the prospects of Craig Barshinger and Carmen Wesselhoft for the at-large seat.
"Barshinger will win St. Croix and Ms. Wesselhoft will win St. Thomas," Russell said.
"I believe it will be a close run," said Hugh Clarke, a beekeeper in Wheel of Fortune.
Either would be good, he said.
"Both will play a beneficial role for St. Croix if they are elected," Clarke said.
At Henderson, too, turnout was steady but not busy.
"It's been relatively slow which, along with the large candidate pool, is good for incumbents and seasoned, well-known campaigners," said Richard Nicks, researcher for Sen. Neville James.
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