In Homewood, Neighborly Spirit Mutes Politics Despite Close Presidential Vote

(In the early days of a new president, BirminghamWatch has looked at what divides us and connects us close to home. This is the final story in the series.)

Edgewood resident Leo Wright has been an election officer in Homewood for the past four presidential elections, and Homewood Public Library has served as his base every Election Day.

It’s the largest voting location in Homewood and one of the largest in Jefferson County based on registered voters. On Nov. 8, 2016, a total of 3,381 residents voted there, enjoying free coffee and a collegial, jubilant atmosphere that Wright says is typical.

That atmosphere reflects the sense of community in Homewood, says Wright, who served as the registration list clerk and assistant inspector.

But it belies the division among voters in the Over the Mountain suburb, particularly those who cast ballots at the library, where Donald Trump won 49 percent of the votes and Hillary Clinton won 43 percent. Read more.

Other stories from this series:
Fairness and Safety. Education and Jobs. Similar Worries for Clinton and Trump Voters
From Jefferson County’s Trump Country: “I feel like I’ve been left out a lot.”
A Big Blue Dot in a Sea of Red. But Jefferson County’s Presidential Vote Tally Masks Deep Community Divisions

Fairness and Safety. Education and Jobs. Similar Worries for Clinton and Trump Voters

(In the early days of a new president, BirminghamWatch is looking at what divides us and connects us close to home. This is the third of the stories.)

On face value, the political and cultural divide in the Birmingham metro area — and, in larger part, the country — appears to be an ever-widening gulf of competing ideals and values.

But if you take a closer look, you will see that supporters of President Donald Trump and of Hillary Clinton say they want many of the same things from government — fairness, safety and the support to achieve greater success. They value church and family, education and freedom. And they express feelings of disenchantment. Both sides complain of feeling left out, unheard and overlooked.

Birmingham residents, like many interviewed in the Sylvan Springs area for a recent story on Trump Country, said it is important for government to treat people fairly and justly. Many said they want the government to make safety a priority. Read more.

Other stories from this series:
From Jefferson County’s Trump Country: “I feel like I’ve been left out a lot.”
A Big Blue Dot in a Sea of Red. But Jefferson County’s Presidential Vote Tally Masks Deep Community Divisions

From Jefferson County’s Trump Country: “I feel like I’ve been left out a lot.”

(As a new president takes office, BirminghamWatch is looking at what divides us and connects us close to home. This is the second of the stories.)

Driving 20 minutes west of downtown Birmingham and taking a short jog off the interstate lands you solidly in Trump Country.

It’s a world where trees outnumber people and hardware stores are still locally owned, where people believe in hard work and fair play, where voters believe entitlement programs should be cut back, and maybe taxes a bit, too. It’s a world where some people visit Birmingham, but mostly they try to avoid the crime and traffic they perceive in The City.

This is Sylvan Springs, population about 1,542 in the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 97 percent of it white. At the largest polling place in the area, 94.29 percent of voters cast their ballots for Trump in November. That was one of 11 Jefferson County polling places where more than 90 percent of voters cast ballots for the candidate inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president on Friday. Read more.

Heavy Turnout Spurs Long Lines but No Major Problems at the Polls

A contentious presidential race drove heavy turnout at the polls Tuesday, causing long lines at some polling places and periodic glitches with voting machines and routines.

As of late Tuesday night, almost 1.9 million ballots had been tallied, with 60 of 67 counties having reported their results, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website. But the state had slightly higher turnout in 2008 and 2012. Almost 2.1 million people voted in each of those years.

A surge in voter registration teased election officials with the prospect of record voter turnout, but it was not to be.

Still, turnout was heavy Tuesday, and people from across the state reported having to stand in line for three hours or more to cast their ballots. Read more.

As If We Needed Reminders, Anyway…

If you had been stricken with amnesia and couldn’t remember who was running for president, you wouldn’t have gotten any clues as you approached polling places in Jefferson County.

Despite the complete inundation of news and ads and chatter about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the past several months as they have pushed toward their epic showdown, there was literally no sign for either approaching precincts in Jefferson County.

Was this some new political strategy? Were party leaders here trying to give voters a break, fearing they suffered from candidate fatigue?

Nope. They just didn’t have any signs for the candidates at the top of their tickets.

There’s Just One Day to Vote, and It’s Nov. 8

The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department is on the lookout this afternoon for people posting or handing out fliers that erroneously tell Democratic voters they cannot vote until Nov. 9. After receiving several calls today about misleading fliers posted at polling places in Tuscaloosa County, Probate Judge W. Hardy McCollum notified the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Department, according to Lisa Whitehead, chief clerk in the Tuscaloosa County Probate Office. Images of the flier – which tells Republicans to vote today, Democrats to vote on Wednesday and independents to vote either day – have been posted across social media throughout the day. Whitehead said McCollum’s office received several calls about the fliers, which were written on what looks like the official letterhead of Tuscaloosa County.

How Long Should it Take to Vote?

So how long should it take you to read the ballot and vote – and is there a time limit? Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King said while there’s no set time limit for voters to cast their ballots, it is not expected to take more than 12 minutes. “Normally, it’s suggested statewide that voters can read a ballot and vote in five to seven minutes,” said. “But that’s for a one-page ballot. We have a two-page ballot.”

Homewood Senior Citizens Center

Poll official Myra Mizerany said the biggest problem at the Homewood Senior Citizens Center polling place on Oak Grove Road today had been “voters wanting to camp out.” “I had one woman this morning who took 35 minutes to vote,” she said. “But we haven’t turned anyone away or had any problems.” Mizerany said voting lines were long first thing this morning. “It was bumper to bumper all the way across the parking lot this morning but it has died down now.

At the Polls

BirminghamWatch, in partnership with ProPublica’s Electionland project, is keeping track of activities at the polls today. If you have a tip about issues at the polls, you can text ELECTIONLAND to 69866. Or you can notify BirminghamWatch directly by emailing vmartin@bellsouth.net or calling 205-595-2402, and a reporter will check out your tip.

7:00 p.m. Polls just closed in Alabama, and several polling places reported they had lines of voters still waiting to vote. Under state law, the polls must remain open until all the voters who were in line at 7 p.m. cast their ballots.

4:24 p.m. The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department is on the lookout this afternoon for people posting or handing out fliers that erroneously tell Democratic voters they cannot vote until Nov. 9. Read more.

2:30 p.m. After complaints from some voters who thought poll workers were rushing them, Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King said there’s no set time limit for voters to cast their ballots, but he would not expect it to take more than about 12 minutes. Read more.

11:15 a.m. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill retweeted a reminder that those voting a straight party ticket do not also have to vote for individual candidates. There has been confusion over that issue all morning.

10:26 a.m. Lines were beginning to die down at Homewood Senior Citizens Center after a hectic morning. Read more.

7:20 a.m. Voters at Hoover Fire Station No. 8 had to put their ballots in a locked box in a voting machine after the machine broke. Similar reports have been made from other polling places. Read more.

Long Lines Greet People Trying to Vote Early Today

Cameron Ydarraga turned 18 in September and has been looking forward to his first chance to vote. The John Carroll Catholic senior considered the candidates and he considered the amendments.

But the Hoover resident didn’t consider the incredibly long line in which he would have to stand at Hunter Street Baptist Church before casting his ballot.

Cameron wasn’t the only one taken aback by the crowd, which was “Way, way, way more than normal,” according to a poll worker who asked that his name not be used.

Voters at other polling places across the area also were facing long lines this morning. Read more.

Mail Delays Endanger Voting for More Than 100 Absentee Voters in Shelby County

More than 100 Shelby County voters who applied to vote absentee learned Monday that they could not because their applications had been delayed in the mail.

Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk Mary Harris said she received 122 applications for absentee ballots in the mail Monday. The problem is, the deadline for receiving those applications was Thursday.

The peculiar thing about those applications, Harris said, is that they were postmarked Monday, Oct. 31. Of those, 97 were from the metro Birmingham area, she said.

Harris spent Monday alerting people that their absentee ballots were not in the mail and that they must, if possible, go to their regular polling place to cast their ballots. Read more.

Calm Before a Storm? Election Workers Prepare for Alabama’s Biggest Voter Turnout

The ballots are stacked, pens gathered, poll workers trained and rolls of “I Voted” stickers ready to go.

Election workers this weekend were taking a “deep breath before the plunge,” as Barry Stephenson, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Registrars, described it. They’ve been working seven days a week since Labor Day to prepare for what could be historic turnout at the polls, he said.

The state has topped 3.3 million registered voters, Secretary of State John Merrill said last week, surpassing the state’s highest registration by 584,252 registered voters.

Likewise, Jefferson County has set a record for registered voters, with 456,000. Before this, the record was 435,000 for the 2012 election, when 302,000 people voted in the county. Stephenson said the county is expecting more than 300,000 voters to show up at the polls Tuesday.

In preparation, the Jefferson County has increased the number of precincts and added an extra 150 poll workers, bringing the total number to 1,900. There will be more voter sign-in books at the polls in an attempt to avoid long lines, but Stephenson warned, “It still may not be a quick process.” Read more.

Know Before You Go: State, Local Offices and Issues on November 8 Ballot

For months the spotlight has been on the race for president. But voters on November 8 will also find a robust ballot of offices and issues closer to home. To be decided are an Alabama Senate seat and seats in Congress, presidency of the Alabama Public Service Commission and membership on state and local boards of education. County offices and a slate of amendments also will be decided, along with control of the state’s judicial system, from justices on the state’s Supreme Court, to district attorneys, to judges on the bench throughout the state.

BirminghamWatch – in partnership with Weld, WBHM, Starnes Publishing, B Metro, Trussville Tribune and the Birmingham Public Library – gives information on all of that in this Alabama Voter Guide. You’ll find sample ballots for Jefferson and Shelby counties, biographical information about candidates on each of those ballots and a rundown of the amendments you’ll be asked to decide. There is also a package of resources to help you navigate election day, from verifying your polling place and registration to researching the issues and the candidates more deeply.

There’s a lot to decide in one 12-hour window at the polls between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8. Read more at AlabamaVoterGuide.org.