Given Florida's penchant for pandemonium at the polls, and the unprecedented turnout during early voting, we were expecting rabid voting-card-armed mobs attacking our libraries, schools, and churches today. Instead we've encountered what everybody but a reporter wants to see on Election Day: calm and order.
At 1:36 this afternoon, the polling place at Sunny Isles Beach was the most packed I saw, with about 100 people in line. "They say it's going to take me two hours," said Betty Barrett, the last in line. "It doesn't matter. I'll be damned if I don't vote because of that."
From there I checked out polling sites in Surfside, Miami Beach at Collins and 75th, Normandy Shores, and North Miami, and found the same thing everywhere: metaphorical tumbleweeds. The scene at the little library on 75th and Collins was especially surprising because when I voted early there, the place had all the serenity of a Mexico City bus depot. It was packed to the gills, seemingly everybody was finding problems with their registration, and the poll workers looked overwhelmed by it all. But at 2:15 this afternoon, the scene resembled a doctor's office, with only a dozen people waiting, most of them sitting in chairs. "Everybody already did their thing," said a chatty Miami-Dade line wrangler with no line to be wrangled. "It was busy until around 12:30."
Not that that polling center was without some contention: specifically, two guys standing on the corner of 75th with a "Communists for Obama" sign. "McCain's going to take Florida," declared Jordan Katz. "Obama supporters are very vocal, but there's a silent majority that's going to swing this the other way, and there's going to be a lot of surprised people across the country."
Meanwhile, a man waved an Obama sign across the street, and whenever cars streamed by, the two mini-camps would try to outscream each other. "This guy's stupid enough to think I'm on his side," said Dave Crystal, referring to his "Communists" sign. "He doesn't realize that my sign is facetious. A lot of these Obama idiots are like that."
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For his part, Obama supporter Terry Carpenter rose above the back-and-forth. "I'm not yelling at them," he said. "I'm just yelling."
Carpenter had never been so passionate about an election before, he said, but this year something changed: "I'm over it, is all. I'm over the war and the recession and George Bush and discrimination against gays. I'm over all of it."