A large, colorful crowd formed in front of Addelita Cancryn Junior High School Saturday morning and just kept growing as voters flocked in.
There was enthusiasm to spare.
Candidates ran the gamut in expereicne, from such veterans as former Sen. Donald Cole, incumbents Janette Millin Young, Shawn Michael Malone and Patrick Simeon Sprauve, past challengers making another run, including Myron D. Jackson, Clarence Payne and Riise E. Smith-Richards, to newcomers such as Jean Anthony Forde, Sean P. Magras, Matthew Hodge, and former Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Andrew Rutnik, who is running for the Senator-At -large seat, all had their cheering sections geared up.
Heading the parade of glad-handers was Cole, who says he wants to fill what he sees as a "void in experience," with several incumbents including veterans Celestino A. White, Louis Patrick Hill and Carlton Dowe not running this term.
"I see a need for my 24 years of legislative experience," Cole said, pointing to crime and energy as his are top priorities. As for crime, he said, "I would vote for the peace officer bill," which, once again, Friday didn't get to a vote for a lack of a quorum. The bill would grant federal officers authority to arrest suspects with probable cause for violations of local law.
A six-year member of the Public Services Commission and its current chair, Coles said energy is high on his list of priorities, specifically reducing WAPA's rates.
One vote Cole would surely get eight years from now is that of his 10-year-old son Demore, a Sibilly School 6th grader, who had no hesitancy about whom he would vote for today if he could – "Daddy and Clifford Graham," he said, before pausing, "Oh, and the teacher, Christina Lee."
Though there was lots of enthusiasm for the fledgling candidates, some of those who have witnessed these elections for years were not so optimistic. Candida Petersen, longtime matriarch of the Petersen family, was holding up a small sign for Board of Election candidate Edwardo Carmona, Sr. but expressed cynicism.
"Look at them," she said. "Out in the sun trying to get your vote, then when they get in office they disappoint you. They don't do what they say they will. There's no accountability."
Several other older voters seemed to agree. One woman said, "They solicit your vote, and then you never see them. They should be out on the street, listening to people like they used to do, walking the street. Some of them act like a CEO, just sitting in his office. It's not a paper job."
On the other hand, Cody Magras and his Frenchtown family were bursting with enthusiasm for Senate candidate Clifford Graham and for the whole election process. Magras, waving a Graham poster, said, "It's a great election day. Look at everybody. I think everybody realizes that we need to build anew."
Ubiquitous radio host Addie Ottley, looking over the steady stream of voters entering the school, said, "I feel today is a referendum for a significant change in the legislative body. A large turnout is an indication of dissatisfaction."
Veteran Cancryn election judge Ivy Williams, whose been at her post for 30 plus years, was not optimistic about the turnout. At 4 p.m., she said the count for Cancryn was 265 out of about 1,000 registered voters. At about 11 a.m., they'd had 115 voting, 12 using paper ballots.
"Voters don't put a lot of stock in the primaries," Williams said. "They just don't think it's important."
Voting at Cancryn were the Gladys Abraham, Joseph Sibilly, Ulla Muller and Dober Elementary School precincts.
Charlotte Amalie High School was less busy with just CAHS, and the annex along with Winston Raymo Recreation Center. Judge Jacqueline Callwood said the combined polling places may have been a plus.
"It gives people a chance to see friends they haven't seen for a bit, to exchange a few words. That's nice."
St. Thomas/St. John board member Lawrence Boschulte, echoed Callwood's sentiments.
"Some people objected to not voting at their own place, but that wasn't financially feasible. I saw lots of people enjoying getting together today."
And Boschulte should know. He started off the day on St. John, then stopped in at the Curriculum Center, then onto Cancryn and CAHS, after a stop at Oswald Harris Court.
"It only had about 10 percent at noon," he said. "That was a disappointment."
Something that was anything but a disappointment was the introduction Saturday of the first step in automating the election process, with an electronic sign in.
"It's going very well," Boschulte said. "The workers are getting used to it today. By 2014, we will be totally automated."
What will happen to the massive books., so much a part of every voter's experience?
"I don't know," Boschulte said. "They will have to be archived somewhere, they have so much information.'
Boschulte said the waits aren't really caused by the sign in process.
"It's really the voters, themselves," he said. "We figure five minutes in the booth, but many of them take longer."
Later in the day, Boschulte said the turnout was less than he expected.
"I'd hoped for better, but it looks like between 24 to 30 percent."
Polls remain open until 7 p.m.