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In Arlington, A Portrait of Indecision

Althea Brum fumbled in her purse looking for her voter registration card around 9 a.m. outside the Drew Community Center in Arlington. She sighed, less because she couldn't find anything in the jumble of her purse and more because after all the mail, the phone calls and even the home visits, she still had no idea who she would vote for when she walked through the door.

"I just don't feel comfortable with any one candidate," she said. "Not 100 percent. Not even 75 percent."

Concerns about the economy were uppermost in her mind, she said, along with same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Brum, a 50-year-old African American insurance agent, votes in the heavily African American precinct that encompasses the Nauck community, a historic black neighborhood. All thee candidates for governor heavily courted voters like Brum, campaigning agressively here as well as in Richmond and Hampton Roads, seeking to build on the historic African American turnout that so decisively helped swing the state for Barack Obama last November.

For that election, people began lining up to vote at Drew as early as 4 a.m., some still in their pajamas. The line at times wrapped around the building with more than 600 people. But turnout was light this morning -- in three hours, barely 50 people had cast ballots, said precinct chief Tyra Baker-Thompson. "We had 200 absentee ballots on Saturday, which is a lot for us, so we were expecting more turnout."

After a few minutes, Brum emerged from the voting booth. She hadn't made up her mind until she saw all three names on the ballot. She took a deep breath, she said, and voted for Terry McAuliffe.

"I was still leaning toward someone else, but then, as I was really looking at the names and what I knew about each of the candidates, I thought Virginia really needs someone with a head for business."

She sighed again and this time fished in her purse for her car keys. "I'm not comfortable with my vote," she said. "But voting's my civic duty. So I did it."

-- Brigid Schulte

By Washington Post editors  |  June 9, 2009; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Election 2009  
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