The sun had not even fully come up on Tuesday morning when voters began forming a line outside of the Whelan School polling place, an unprecedented situation also duplicated at a few other busy polls throughout the City.
Lines at the door of a polling place before opening hadn’t been seen for more than 30 years in Revere.
The early turnout was exceptional, perhaps record breaking.
It was the big day everyone had been waiting for, and it appeared no one was caught off guard early on the in the voting process.
From the first light of dawn, it was apparent people from Revere were going to come out in droves for what has been termed nationally as one of the most important elections in recent history.
“Everything is just crazier than we expected,” said Savas Trellopoulos, the long-time warden of 6-1 and 6-2 at the Whelan School cafeteria. “We expected to be overwhelmed, but it’s more overwhelming than even we expected. It’s overwhelming all around. From 7 a.m. on until noon, we had a line out the door. They were here at 6:45 a.m. before we even opened. The line has stayed steady and hasn’t stopped yet. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Santillo Belmonte said he had voted at the Whelan for 40 years, and this kind of crowd was a first.
“I got here more than an hour ago,” he said after voting. “It’s 11 a.m. now and I got here a little after 9 a.m. with my wife. I thought we’d just come down early and then I’d take her to work in Boston. It was so crowded when we got here and we circled the school over and over. I ended up dropping her off to vote, and then I had to come back later to vote myself. That’s really a first for me.”
At the Lighthouse Nursing Home polling place, which is 4-3, things had slowed down by noon, but the crowd was waiting in the morning.
“When I opened up the doors at 7 a.m. there was a line out the door and out the driveway and things continued like that until just after 9 a.m.,” said Warden Ned Warren. “It’s been crazy; very, very busy. I can’t recall having this many people here.”
And while the larger than normal crowds were a storyline on Tuesday, so were people who were frustrated with the process or felt disenfranchised for some reason.
All over the state, and in Revere too, voters reported that voting machines were malfunctioning – rejecting ballots and angering voters.
“It’s my right not to vote for those questions if I don’t want to,” said one frustrated voter who called the Journal and asked for anonymity. “I was at the Lincoln and my ballot got rejected, kept getting spit out and they said, ‘Oh here’s another one.’ They wanted me to vote for the questions so it would go through and I didn’t want any part of those questions. There were big problems there at the Lincoln, and I was angry.”
Warren said that it was the second page of the ballot that seemed to jam up the process, especially if voters had chosen not to answer the questions on the second page.
Belmonte said he was disturbed when he heard that there might be a United Nations observer at the Whelan School – a situation that couldn’t be confirmed, although UN observers were stationed around the country to observe the voting on Tuesday.
“I really don’t want an outsider from another country coming in and making judgments about our process,” he said. “I strongly object to that and I want to know why they would be here, if they are. Is it fact or is it fiction? I’m trying to find that out this morning. Why would my community be targeted? Things usually go pretty well here.”
Likewise, hundreds of frustrated voters who weren’t registered properly or who were put on the inactive voter list tried to straighten out their situations. Voters who don’t vote in an election for four years, who don’t sign election papers or who don’t return their City Census are put on the inactive list – and this time around there were some 5,000 on that list in Revere.
Many of those voters tried to straighten out that situation at the polls, and it was time consuming and a bit frustrating.
In the end, most everyone who met the voting requirements were accommodated and they left with their vote cast.
Trellopoulos said despite the swarm of people and the longer than normal wait times, most everyone was courteous.
“Most people have been courteous and very nice,” he said. “I personally haven’t heard anyone complain. It’s been a patient crowd. I think people expected it to be crazy. As much as we’re moving them through, more just keep coming.”
The crowds voting in the two precincts at the Whelan School started early and didn’t stop until noon, only to pick up again in the evening. Voting booths were full and some voters had taken to sitting down at lunch tables to fill out their ballots.