Voters stream to polls in Suffolk

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, November 5, 2019

By Jimmy LaRoue and Alex Perry

Staff Writers

While many who came out to the polls in Suffolk were longtime voters, some were casting ballots for the first time.

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Two of those were Alex Hill, 21, and Taylor Wentzel, who just celebrated her 18th birthday in September.

Both voted within minutes of each other Tuesday afternoon at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church off of Godwin Boulevard.

Wentzel, like she has every year, came to the polls with her mother, Jill Wentzel, and was also there with her father, Mike Wentzel. But this time, rather than just watch them vote, she got to cast a ballot.

“Ever since she was born, she’s been with us,” Jill Wentzel said. “It’s so cool.”

Taylor Wentzel thought it was a cool moment, also.

“I’m pretty excited,” Taylor Wentzel said before casting her ballot. “It’s kind of crazy. I’ve been every year. … It’s surreal, because I always look at their ballots, and when I was older, I was able to chime in a little bit, but now I get to vote for myself.”

And when she and Hill walked out, there were smiles on both of their faces as they wore their “I voted” stickers.

At Temple Beth-El in North Suffolk early Tuesday afternoon, Democratic House of Delegates District 76 candidate Clinton Jenkins was shaking hands and asking for votes. He also managed to surprise one of his volunteers, Marcella Turner, who had not met Jenkins previously.

Turner, not recognizing Jenkins, approached him and went into her pitch to vote for him. Jenkins said her pitch was compelling, and then let her know she was speaking to the candidate himself.

“I didn’t realize that was him,” Turner said, laughing. “Oh my goodness.”

Volunteers with both Jenkins’ campaign and his opponent, Republican Chris Jones, said they had seen a steady stream of voters throughout the day. At Temple Beth-El, 514 people had voted as of 1 p.m., while Mills Staylor, passing out sample ballots for Jones at King’s Fork Middle School, said he had come from the Lake Cohoon Precinct, where It had already seen more than 800 voters by mid-afternoon.

By 4 p.m. at King’s Fork Middle School, there had been 916 voters, while at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church, there had been more than 600 voters, according to volunteers with the Jenkins campaign.

Voters made their way into the Birdsong gymnasium at the Salvation Army building on Bank Street Tuesday morning for their turns at the polls.

More than 100 voters had turned out to the Salvation Army gym before noon, according to Thomas Ashley, assistant chief officer of election. An influx of more voters was expected when people got off work later that day, as long as the weather cooperated.

“If the weather and the temperatures are good, we might have a heavy turnout this evening, with people getting off work and so forth,” Ashley said. “It’s amazing how different it is sometimes.”

Ashley had been working with election officials for at least 26 years, while Chief Officer of Election Donna Smith counted 30 years — including at least seven presidential elections.

Smith said it was important for citizens to vote and have their voices heard.

“It is a citizen of the United States’ opportunity to voice their opinion of who they think would be best to serve in whatever capacity is being voted upon,” Smith said. “It’s a freedom we have to go vote. We simply have to register our name, and be active once we’ve registered.”

There was also activity at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, where officials said turnout was strong.

“It’s been a good turnout,” said Clara Williams, chief officer of election at Booker T. Washington. “People have been consistent and steadily coming out.”

The importance of voting, according to Williams, is that every voice — and ballot — matters.

“Everybody’s vote counts. Everybody is somebody when it comes to voting,” Williams said.

Including Bishop Early Gay and Eudia M. Gay, who came out to the polls once again.

The married couple of 62 years were together at the Booker T. Washington polls Monday morning. Bishop Early Gay there’s trouble in society today, which makes voting that much more important.

“We’re in trouble now, whether people know it or not,” he said. “We need to try to get the right people where we need them.”

“I think it’s very important to get the right person in the seat,” Eudia Gay added.