WASHINGTON-At polling places in the Washington, D.C., area, hundreds of voters lined up in the early hours of the morning, some in bathrobes, some with coffee in hand. At one location minstrels-yes, the medieval kind-came out to perform.
Voting lines in the swing state of Virginia, where the polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m., grew long as the morning progressed, with waits reported up to three hours. Canvassers swarmed into the state to help get out the vote in what analysts expect to be one of the highest turnouts in Virginia's history. The big question is whether state election officials and voting machines can handle the large wave of those casting ballots. Some have reported trouble with electronic machines in parts of the state, and officials have in certain cases turned voters away or issued illegal provisional ballots, according to some sources.
On Capitol Hill, no hint of the day's voting activity emerged. Police officers shot the breeze. Like every other day Congress is in recess, the grounds are relatively quiet, waiting for members, new and old, to return. Construction workers are pulling down fences and mobile units from the massive Capitol Visitors Center set to open soon. Rain and grey clouds hovered over the nation's capital, which historically deters voters.
Despite the outward calm, elections determine the welfare of a large chunk of this city's population.
Presidential elections move people in and out of jobs every four to eight years. Almost 3,000 people received political appointments from President Bush, and will be out searching for new work when he leaves office in January. The president, who has stayed entirely out of the public light the last few weeks, plans to be at home in the White House with his wife, Laura, to watch tonight's returns, not out at any GOP parties.
Congressional elections often shake-up hundreds of jobs, too, with the losers' staffs joining the ranks of the unemployed. Republicans living in the city look like they will be the ones looking for jobs, with an expected Barack Obama win and big congressional losses. Obama supporters already have street celebrations and celebrity-centered parties planned for his supposed victory tonight. John McCain supporters are keeping a lower profile on the party scene, and few are talking about a "President McCain."
So it's excusable that political staffers admit they aren't getting much done at work, and instead reading news and watching polls online.