Volume 74, Number 27 | November 03 - 09, 2004

From left, Bob Trentlyon of Chelsea Reform Democrats, Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Carin Mirowitz of Councilmember Chris Quinn’s office disembarking in Norristown.

Turnout and turnpikes

By Lincoln Anderson

In the most eagerly anticipated presidential election since 1968 during the Vietnam War, Downtowners flocked to the polls in droves on Tuesday. Making every effort to help John Kerry win, many Democrats from the Village to Hell’s Kitchen also headed to key battleground states over the weekend and on Election Day to lobby the undecided, encourage people to vote and, in some cases, keep an eye out for irregularities at polling sites.

With the huge turnout, long waits to vote were reported. Exiting City as School in Hudson Sq. on Houston St. near Varick St. at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Carmen Morais, 36, who lives at the Printing House on Hudson St., said she had waited an hour to vote. Although Kerry’s winning New York was never in doubt, Morais said it was important to vote in numbers.

“It goes along with the idea that every vote counts,” said Morais, an editor at Nickelodeon magazine. “People have strong emotions, so you just want to express yourself. It has to do with what happened with the last election — that Gore won the popular vote. Let’s say the Electoral College is another squeaker — it just puts that to rest, so that a candidate can claim that as their mandate.”

The polling place at Hayden Hall on Washington Sq. W. did not open until 6:40 a.m. according to Anne-Marie Sumner, president of the Washington Square Association, who likes to vote early. “The line was long but people were in good spirits,” she observed. Shortly before noon, the wait to vote at Hayden Hall was still two hours, according to Doris Diether, a veteran Community Board 2 member.

Carl Rosenstein, owner of the Puffin Room Gallery in Soho on Broome St., a polling site for the last eight years, said turnout had been “hea-vee, hea-vee.” However, a show of political artwork, “Kingdom of Fear,” currently up at the Puffin Room had drawn a few complaints from voters who felt it constituted electioneering within the poll site, which is prohibited. The works included a poster of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, drawings of war by Iraqi children and “remixed” propaganda posters from the 1930s reflecting today’s political realities. Rosenstein said the previous week a Board of Elections official inspected the artwork and deemed it O.K.

As a result of the complaints, the B.O.E. checked out the artwork again, specifically the Ashcroft poster. It was determined not to be electioneering since Ashcroft is not a candidate for office, and Rosenstein did not have to cover up any artwork.

At the polling place in Westbeth, Eileen Blumenthal walked in with her dog and was told that dogs were not allowed, so she had to take the dog home and returned to vote later. Yet, last year John Ravitz, New York City Board of Elections president, told The Villager that dogs were allowed in the booths after poll-watchers had told some voters that no dogs would be admitted.

Paparazzi parked outside the P.S. 3 polling site in Greenwich Village Tuesday afternoon watching for celebrities. “Get him! Get him!” one of them shouted as actor Paul Rudd stepped onto Hudson St. after casting his ballot.

Last week, former Mayor Ed Koch was down in Florida for three days, speaking at synagogues and convention centers in six cities, including Tampa and W. Palm Beach, and in Des Moines, Iowa for a day. Stumping for the Bush-Cheney ticket because of the so-called Bush Doctrine of hitting terrorists before they attack the U.S., Koch urged voters to split the ticket and elect Democratic senators to create a filibuster in case potential conservative Bush nominees to the Supreme Court tried to roll back Roe v. Wade.

“I consider myself a messenger to the Jewish community, and I think I was effective,” Koch said. “There are only 3,000 Jews in all of Iowa,” he noted, adding the Des Moines audience of mainly non-Jews gave him a standing ovation going in and out.

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, president of New School University, had been in South Dakota campaigning for Senator Tom Daschle in a key race.

“I see a Kerry victory — yet, God, it could go either way,” predicted Kerrey, a former presidential candidate. “I think Ohio is a critical state — but you’ve got Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota. That whole industrial Midwest is up for grabs. I think Kerry could sweep them all or Bush could take some — in the latter case it could be a long night.”

Asked if he thought Kerry should have attacked Bush more, Kerrey said the Massachusetts senator took the right approach.

“I think he’s run a good campaign,” he said. “It’ll make him a better president.”

A major story in this year’s race was New Yorkers going to swing states to try to influence the vote. Twenty-four members of the Village Independent Democrats club traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, last Friday to work for Kerry.

On Tuesday, the three attorneys from V.I.D. on the trip were watching polls while the others got out the vote. Chad Marlow, the club’s president, was watching a poll at a Baptist church in East Cleveland, a primarily black area. A last-minute Federal Circuit ruling at 3 a.m. that morning made it legal for challengers to contest people’s right to vote. However, Republicans only seemed interested in doing this in black neighborhoods, Marlow noted.

“Apparently, they’re not concerned about white voters voting who don’t have the right to vote,” he said. According to Marlow, 160,000 new voters had been registered in Cleveland alone.

“More than half those people have not voted before — it’s just awesome,” he said. Since Ohio uses punch ballots, Marlow was instructing the voters not to leave any hanging chads or little flecks of paper that could invalidate their ballots. Others had sample punch-vote machines outside the poll to instruct people on how to vote properly.

The V.I.D. members enjoyed Kerry’s last rally before the election, attended by 100,000 people in Downtown Cleveland the night before Election Day. Bruce Springsteen played “Thunder Road” and “No Surrender,” and John Glenn and Dennis Kucinich joined Kerry and Theresa Heinz Kerry at the rally.

“It was a tremendous night,” Marlow said.

On Sunday, Councilmember Christine Quinn and members of Chelsea Reform Democratic Club and Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats rode a bus down to Pennsylvania to rally voters in heavily Democratic Norristown to go to the polls on Tuesday. The New Yorkers were well received in the primarily black and Mexican, heavily immigrant neighborhood.

“Forty-five of us gave out over 7,000 pieces of literature,” said Quinn. “It was the first time all of Norristown was ever lit-dropped in one day. The energy and feedback we got on the street was very uplifting. People wanted buttons. Kids were telling us about class polls from their school — they said only one girl in their class had voted for Bush.”

If no one was home, the volunteers left a “door hanger” on the knob, reminding them to vote for Kerry. They also did “visibility” — standing with signs along roads and highways.

As much as it was important to mobilize the vote in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, it was also therapeutic for New Yorkers to get more immersed in the race.

“I think people in New York are so afraid of what another Bush term would bring, they need to get out that energy,” Quinn said. On Tuesday she campaigned in Yonkers, the Bronx and Sunset Park for Democratic State Senate candidates, and she is sure the Democrats will make gains in the State Senate.

“It will send a message loud and clear to [Senate Majority Leader] Joe Bruno,” Quinn said. “There is no way he will ignore it and continue business as usual.”

Brad Hoylman, GLID’s president, was among those who went down to Norristown on Sunday and on Tuesday he was back in Buck’s County on a trip organized by Neera Tanden, Senator Hillary Clinton’s legislative director, for 20 friends. The area was a bit more affluent and more pro-Bush, but Hoylman said they still felt they got some votes.

Larry Moss, Democratic state committeeman from Soho, called in as he was traveling back to New York from Ohio after the polls there had closed. Moss had been among 20 people staffing a Voter Protection Hotline on Election Day and the phones had been ringing off the hook. People wanted to know how they could check their registration, their polling places, whether they needed ID to vote.

“I’m hopeful we’ll carry the state,” Moss said.

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