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CA: Prop. 8 Weighs on Voters

By Ashley Surdin
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- An hour before the polls opened Tuesday morning, a line cascaded down the steps of Santa Monica City Hall, split around a rose garden and spilled into the street.

The quiet crowd of 30 or so harbored hope, anxiety and even song as they waited. Steam from coffee cups lifted into the damp, gray beachside haze. The American flag hung heavy from a poll.

"I want it to be November the fifth already," said Bola Ogun, 22, of Woodland Hills, standing in line. "It will be a good feeling to hear a certain someone's name."

For her, the first American in her family, natives of Nigerian, that name was Barack Obama.

"It's weird because I don't feel like I've carried a burden these last eight years, but if he wins it will feel like something has lifted, that a change is going to start" she said.

When the clock passed 7 a.m., sunlight broke from the previous night's rain clouds and landed across the lawn. A poll worker emerged from the top of city hall's steps and called out, "The polls are now open!"

It cued the crowd into a burst of applause and cheers.

Despite the excitement, Kris Langabeer was weighed down with anxiety. For Langabeer, a 53-year-old lesbian, the stakes of this election -- not only for president, but for California's gay marriage proposition -- filled her with unease.

"I have a 14 year old," said Langabeer, holding her bicycle helmet in one hand and her voting pamphlet in the other. "I'm very concerned about the world we're leaving to our children and our grandchildren."

Tears filled her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said, removing her wire-rimmed glasses and wiping her eyes. "This is an emotional experience."

Langabeer was not alone in her tears. Claudia Schaffer, 61, an Obama supporter, shed a few as well.

"He's the first person since Bobby Kennedy that makes me feel hopeful," said Schaffer said. She paused, as if remembering, and tears swelled on her lashes.

Schaffer fought them back, as she explained how she was laid off two years ago and finally found a job last month as a loan officer - one week after the market crashed.

She lost her health insurance, has cut back on medications and tries not to go to the doctor if she can help it, she said. When asked what she hoped for under an Obama administration, her smile broke.

"A decent life," she said, her voice breaking. She apologized as she wiped her eyes with a Kleenex, adding, "It's been a long eight years."

Schaffer said she would watch election results while eating pizza at a neighbor's house. She even wrote a song to celebrate Obama's victory, she said.

Jay Santy, 47, a banker from Santa Monica turned to Schaffer in line. "You should sing it," he said.

So she did.

"We're going to vote for Obama, bama bama," she sang, crooning her lyrics to a borrowed Cole Porter tune. "The dems will be drinking champagne."

Santy laughed. "We'll be drinking either way."

By Washington Post editors  |  November 4, 2008; 2:29 PM ET
Categories:  50 States , B_Blog  
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Next: A McCain Supporter in a Sea of Obama Partisans

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