Voting, the way Virginians do it

Published 12:39 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

By Dennis Edwards

I have a confession to make. After college and my first job, I left Virginia to live in St. Louis, Raleigh, Detroit, and then, for the past 20 years, Baltimore.

The whole time, though, I was quietly missing Virginia. It never quite felt right living anywhere else. The truth is there is no place in the country remotely like Virginia, and Virginians are not like Americans anywhere else in the country.

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All of that came back to me when I stopped in at Morgan Memorial Library to vote on Tuesday. I hadn’t voted in my home state since 1985. It felt good to cast a historic vote at a historic time just down the street from where I grew up.

Along with that, I took particular delight in the friendliness of campaign and voter registration workers.

Nearby, there was the silent and mysterious woman who held a sign asking us to choose between God and Obama in relationship to gay marriage. A campaign worker for a mayoral candidate sat with her cell phone, seldom speaking to or smiling at voters.

One presidential candidate’s workers seemed to be desperately searching for a sense of humor. The other presidential candidate’s workers were upbeat and cordial, despite not-so-encouraging final vote predictions. One well-dressed woman wearing a charming black and red outfit showed up to represent her candidate with a determined, though cordial, look on her face.

The election workers still had a sense of humor six hours after the polls opened. I tried getting one of them to include my request in her food run. I wonder whether she made it to Chick-fil-A?

Everybody was cordial in their own way, smiling and making small talk like Virginians do. Of course, they sized me up. Probably could tell whether I was for or against their candidate. But that didn’t stop them from being friendly, from laughing with me about the weather or joking about whether our troubles were worth talking about.

I left the library feeling good about Virginia — and Suffolk in particular. When I turned on the television at home I felt even better.

Compare my experience with that of voters in Ohio and Florida. There were no lines when I voted. Nobody asked me any intrusive or obstructive questions about my ID. The poll didn’t arbitrarily shut down. The Governor wasn’t playing games with the polling places’ hours. There was none of that here.

It was just Virginians from Suffolk exercising their right to vote and respecting the rights of others to do the same.

So now I know what I’ve missed about home. What a shame that folks in parts of Florida and Ohio don’t even know what they’re missing.


Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter and anchor. He is a 1974 graduate of Suffolk High School. Email him at