An engaged electorate

Published 10:55 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It was clear early on that Tuesday it was going to be an exciting day.

When the doors opened at polling places around Suffolk on Election Day, there already were people waiting to vote. Soon there would be lines — in some cases, long lines — of people eager to register their opinion about the state of the nation, the commonwealth and their city by casting their ballots.

By the end of the day, it was not uncommon to hear from Suffolk voters who waited up to two hours to cast their votes. Considering that there were some places around Hampton Roads where voters reported waiting twice that amount of time, Suffolk’s most patient voters are probably thanking God that they didn’t have to vote in those other precincts.

Email newsletter signup

In Suffolk, there were disabled veterans casting ballots while standing (in a figurative sense, at least) beside immigrants with fresh citizenship papers voting in their first election. The intensity in the eyes of most voters was the same. On Tuesday, it would have been hard to find anyone who was at the polls out of a sheer sense of obligation. Folks on Tuesday were there because they wanted to make a difference.

And even though the presidential election got most of the attention, there was plenty of enthusiasm for local races. In fact, the elections for mayor and Nansemond Borough City Council seat both turned out to be nail-biters, going not just down to the wire but into two days of counting, as election officials waded through 5,700 absentee ballots on Wednesday. In the end Mayor Linda Johnson won re-election by a margin of less than 1 percent, a fact that under state law gives Leroy Bennett the chance to call for a recount, reinforcing just how close things were and just how much was at stake.

It’s encouraging to see so many people from so many walks of life so engaged in electing their government leaders. We hope they will remain so engaged through the long, often-boring months of actual governing that are to come. That’s where the real difference will be made.