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Scenes from Election Day in Durham

<p>Poll workers begin to close down the polling site at Precinct 2 at 7:30pm.</p>

Poll workers begin to close down the polling site at Precinct 2 at 7:30pm.

It's Election Day. Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. but there's still hours to go until the votes are counted and results are called. Make sure to follow along as The Chronicle's reporters speak with voters, poll workers and volunteers in Durham, students on campus and more. 

7 p.m., George Watts Elementary School

In a stark contrast from the bustle at dawn, the energy at George Watts Elementary School was subdued half an hour before polls closed.

Standing outside the entrance, Robert May explained that he had already voted earlier this morning, and was waiting for his son to cast his ballot. 

“I always wait to vote in person because I live two blocks up the street and I like to walk from my house,” he said.

A few minutes later, Robert’s son, Garrett, strolled out of the gym. Garrett attends North Carolina State University but votes from his childhood home address. He said that this election “feels like a turning point, a little bit.”


Precinct 2 Midterm Elections 2022
Garrett May, left, and his father Robert after Garrett cast his vote at George Watts Elementary School.


Inside the gym, signs with voter information overlapped with children’s drawings, and plastic voting booths sat under folded-up basketball hoops. As Election Day drew to a close, the number of election officials exceeded the number of voters. 

Precinct 2 Chief Judge Audrey Mitchell sat at an information booth, leafing through a manual for election officials. 

Mitchell assured that the site has seen steady traffic all day, despite a slightly lower turnout than in previous elections she had staffed. 

“We had a great turnout during early voting,” she said.

As the final voters streamed out of the polling place, Maranatha Wall, programming coordinator for Duke’s Program in Education, said that she finally found the time to cast her ballot after recently becoming a mother. 

“It's important to vote in the local elections, because so many of the issues that we deal with are locally impacted,” Wall said. 

Duke first-year Ryan Su expressed pride at having voted for the first time as a naturalized citizen. “It’s a privilege as a citizen to be able to vote. It's a privilege that I want to make use of,” Su said.

The gymnasium became rejuvenated once more in the final minutes of Election Day. Poll workers sprang into action, taking down signs and folding up the voting booths one by one.

Right after the last voter hurried into the door, Judge Mitchell announced, “7:30! Polls are closed!”

-Anisha Reddy


Precinct 2 Midterm Elections 2022
Voting signs outside the Precinct 2 site after polls closed for the day.


3:30 p.m., Chapel Drive

“Starting route to Watts Elementary School,” Nancy Nye’s car intoned as she pulled onto Chapel Drive to take two young voters to the polls. Nye, a volunteer for Durham Drives, had picked up juniors Alyzea Benjamin and Edison Ooi to vote for their second time.

Durham Drives, a grassroots non-profit founded by senior Hannah McKnight in 2020, is an organization that provides “free, safe, and well-organized personal transportation to and from voting locations throughout Early Voting and Election Day.” 

Benjamin had originally planned to ride the bus to 300 Swift apartments and then walk to Watts Elementary School until she realized it was more than a 20 minute walk away. She had not planned on voting until her sixth grade history teacher texted her and asked about her voting plan.

“I didn’t understand why it was important until she messaged me,” she said. 

After a short drive, Nye pulled into Watts Elementary’s parking lot. The pair hopped out of the car and walked into the gymnasium to cast their ballot. 

While Benjamin and Ooi were voting, Nye spoke about how she became involved with Durham Drives. She had volunteered with “Get Out the Vote” efforts before and discovered Durham Drives through a neighborhood email list. 

“It's so hard in these elections when you're anxious about the results,” she said. “And if you don't do something, it makes it worse.”

Read the full story here

- Kathryn Thomas


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First-year Brooke Hira shows Ron Gallagher, a volunteer with Durham Drives, her "I Voted" sticker after voting for the first-time.


3 p.m., Patterson Recreation Center

At the voting site for Precinct 5, located next to the Duke University Hospital, there seemed to be few voters lined up at 3 p.m. At the curbside option, voters pulled up every few minutes to fill out their ballots in their cars. 

But non-partisan volunteer Stephanie Brown attested that there had been “a steady stream of people coming and going … lots of young people.”

Just thirty minutes later, excitement increased as a line formed, flooding out the door — students with backpacks coming straight from their classes, couples holding hands and young men on bikes stopping by to cast their ballot. As they waited in line, they scanned the array of signs across the street urging them to vote for certain candidates. 

Voters left the Patterson Center with smiles on their faces, proudly wearing their “I Voted” stickers. 

“I’m stoked about it,” said Duke junior and first-time voter Celia Vergara.

Many students expressed their urgency to vote in this election as they walked in and out of the site. 

“I feel like this is a state where it counts,” Vergara said. Sophomore Milo Chung agreed, choosing to vote in North Carolina rather than his home state of California. 

Duke sophomore Gabriela Graneiro hopped out of a car, her free ride to the polls provided by a Bull City Votes and Durham Drives initiative. 

“I’ve been following the senate races … and abortion rights is the main thing hanging in the balance,” Graneiro said. 

Meanwhile, a young voter walked towards the polling site alongside three friends. 

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. 

- Audrey Patterson and Michelle Brown



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A resident votes at the polling site for Precinct 17 at the Durham Public Library.


2:30 p.m., Durham County Public Library

Volunteer poll observer Vanessa Paulsen had a simple answer when asked if there was high turnout today. 

“Oh yeah,” she said with a laugh. 

A row of campaign signs surrounded a full capacity parking lot around the Durham County Library, the voting site for Precinct 17. The air was crisp, with a slight breeze. 

This polling location offered both indoor and curbside voting, where Durham voters could cast their ballots while remaining in their car — a boon for parents to avoid the hassle of handling voting with children. 


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Voters cast their ballots by curbside voting at the polling site at Precinct 17. 


The site was busy, but controlled. One worker brought a bagel and an orange to another, who hadn’t been able to eat all day. Poll workers in neon green vests moved briskly between the indoor voting space and the curbside voting, ensuring that everything was running smoothly. 

In addition to poll workers, there were plenty of volunteers like Paulsen, representing political organizations or observing the polls. 

“As a poll observer, I just have to watch. I don't intervene at all. I just observe and make notes so that we can make things better for next time,” she said. 

“I think it's important that people feel like they can vote and not have to be concerned about their vote getting lost or stolen or that they're misrepresented. I just think it's good for the integrity of our system,” Paulsen added. 

Another volunteer, Anne Claire Broughton, works with Democracy North Carolina, an organization that works to ensure polling places are safe and accessible. 

“It seems like the city is pulling together to make it possible for everyone to vote,” Broughton said.


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Outside the Durham Public Library, volunteer Anne Claire Broughton represented Democracy North Carolina. 

 

Voter Abhishek Kumar, a cancer doctor, said this election was particularly important because of the Dobbs ruling, with reproductive rights and women’s rights on the ballot. 

Durham resident Isa Garbutt, echoed Kumar’s sentiment of the election being central for women's rights. 

“I’m just trying to make sure that I’m voting for people that actually guarantee rights and freedom to everyone,” she said. 


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Durham resident Abhishek Kumar after voting at the polling site for Precinct 17.


Meanwhile, Durham resident Emily Downing cited gun violence as her top issue in this election, especially following the Oct. 13 Raleigh mass shooting.

“I definitely feel like we need to have some restrictions in place … I felt like swaying towards safety instead of liberation,” she said. 

Downing said she cherishes the ability to vote and takes pride in having her voice heard. 

“Being able to live in a place where I have a voice and my vote matters means the world to me,” she said. “It’s a right that I will always exercise.” 

- Ranjan Jindal and Ishita Vaid


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The entrance to the George Watts Elementary School voting site in the early morning light of Election Day. 


6:30 a.m., George Watts Elementary School

“It is 6:30 a.m., and the polls are open!” rang the cry from Audrey Mitchell, chief judge of Durham County’s Voting Precinct 2. The door to the George Watts Elementary School Gymnasium swung open — the first voter had arrived. 

But minutes before the arrival of these early-morning voters, the gymnasium was far from empty. Poll workers buzzed around the room, making small talk with each other at the check-in table, flipping through binders and tinkering with the ballot scanner in the far corner of the room. A small crowd of poll workers followed Judge Mitchell around at all times, asking last-minute questions and ensuring that everything was ready for the voters to arrive.

As each voter — a nurse in medical scrubs, a Duke employee, parents with their small children in tow — stepped out of the chilly orange light of the morning and into the warm gymnasium, each was greeted with a friendly “Welcome, you’re here to vote, right?”

The gymnasium was rarely void of voters, but there was never a line either. During the first hour of voting, there were usually around three people voting at a time, their ballots hidden from view by gray cubicles with stars and stripes printed into the sides.

“I think it's going to be a pretty good turnout today,” Judge Mitchell said. “We’re steadily moving.” Mitchell worked as a judge during early voting too, and reported “very good turnout for that.”

“There’s a lot on the ballot,” said Shannon Scanlan, a new resident and voter in Durham. Among the key issues for Scanlan this cycle are reproductive rights, trans rights, investing in the economy, universal healthcare and increased funding for education. Scanlan voted this morning right before 7 a.m., prior to starting a drive to New Jersey to visit family. 

Jonathan Viventi, an eight-year resident and voter in Durham, agreed with Scanlan that abortion is one of the most important issues this election cycle, adding election integrity to that list. While he believes voting to be “very important,” he also expressed that he feels like “things are already decided. There’s not a lot that can swing people who have already made up their minds.” 

In a midterm election with one Senate seat, 14 House seats and several state and local offices on ballots across North Carolina, much is riding on voters’ decisions. 

“This is a unique election,” Judge Mitchell said, citing the possibility for the Republican party to win a majority in the U.S. Senate. 

With campaign signs for candidates from both parties staked into the ground outside of the George Watts Gymnasium, Precinct 2 voters must wait until tonight to know which candidate their state has chosen.

“Everyone needs to take a hard look at what’s happening across the country and make sure that we’re not taking our democracy for granted,” said Ryan Pietropaolo who has voted in Durham for 15 years. “We need to make sure we have people in office who are going to uphold the democratic principles of our democracy.”

- Holly Keegan


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Election Preview 

Check out The Chronicle's coverage from the 2022 election cycle and our election preview with a breakdown of all the races to watch tonight.


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