A slow start for primary day in the District
A quick stop this morning at West Elementary School and precinct 54 in Ward 4, then I was off to Taft Junior High School, where I got a taste of District of Columbia elections 50 years ago.
First, a word about Precinct 54, on the 1300 block of Farragut St. NW. It was not what I expected. At 9:30 a.m., only about 200 people had voted. Far more people had voted by that hour when Barack Obama's name was on the ballot two years ago. Is this a good or a bad thing for Mayor Adrian Fenty, who carried precinct 54 by a wide margin in the 2007 Democratic primary? Too soon to tell. But turnout is the thing to watch.
Three other voting precincts in Northwest and Northeast D.C. that I passed along the way to Taft also seemed moribund, though plenty of campaign signs and workers were on the sidewalks. No long lines of voters waiting to enter the buildings -- that’s for sure.
Taft Junior High, located off South Dakota Ave. in Northeast, was also quiet, but for good reason. It's now Taft Diagnostic Center, no longer the voting precinct where I stood on May 3, 1960 handing out instructional materials to voters on how to cast ballots in the city's second official District-wide primary election in 86 years. District residents would still be unable to vote in the presidential contest in November 1960. Was the May '60 primary a try out? Not sure.
I was one of several Howard University government students performing that service for extra credit. Later in the day, we would go to the National Guard Armory to help other volunteers count the ballots. That was the first in a series of Election Day ballot-counting disasters that would plague the board of elections in the ensuing decades. Too few ballot counters, ballot boxes falling off delivery trucks; imagine it, and it happened.
We’ve come a long way in our electioneering. From handing out fliers and street corner rallies in the '60s to today's robo-calls, television ads, mass mailings and door-to-door canvassing.
We’ve also come a long way as a city. Taft, where I stood in May 1960 with a Howard student who would later become my wife, was one of the formerly all-white schools where students staged walkouts to protest the expected presence of black students in the building following the Supreme Court's '54 school desegregation decision.
Change, and no change: Despite it all, there are still virtually one-race schools in this city.
Ah, but today is about the future.
Weather-wise, this is a great day for voting.
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