War, education, immigration motivate early voters
Delawareans were lining up before the polls opened
By Kristin Harty, The News Journal

Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2006 at 9:57 am

Steve Hacker was thinking about starting a bonfire early this morning, as he stood in the cold outside Newark High School, waiting for the polls to open.

“We could have hot dogs, marshmallows,” joked Hacker, of Newark, his breath trailing from his mouth. Hands stuffed in the pockets of his leather jacket, he waited with about a dozen voters for Election Day to officially begin.

At precisely 7 a.m., a poll worker opened the doors of the school and blandly announced, “OK, the polls are open.”

Less than three minutes later, Hacker and his neighbor in line, Bobbi Dilling, had cast their ballots and were on their way.

“That was easy,” said Dilling, 40, who was the first in line. “[The machine] lists the candidates. It’s just boom, boom, boom, and you’re done.”

Polls close today at 8 p.m.

Like Hacker, Dilling was disappointed candidates didn’t spend more time talking about issues this year and less time criticizing each other.

“It’s been more about who’s done what wrong,” said Dilling, who works as a massage therapist at A Touch of Class salon in Newark. She had today off, but voted early so she could get errands done.

Hacker, who was headed to work in Baltimore after casting his ballot, wanted to know with certainty where candidates for state and federal offices stood on issues such as third-term abortion, illegal immigration and laws about carrying a concealed weapon. One state candidate who contacted him by telephone failed to make himself clear, Hacker said.

“He was just doing the tap dance,” said Hacker, a “pure conservative,” who planned to vote the Republican party line. “I don’t like that. I like to know where somebody stands on an issue.”

At Smyrna High School, a line of voters greeted precinct inspector Peggy Seagrave when she opened the doors at 7 a.m.

“It’s been a steady flow, Seagrave said a few hours later while calling out greetings to voters and children who came with them.

Seagrave and her husband are both volunteering at polling places this year.
“They always need people, especially retirees,” she said, chuckling. “Because you have to get up early and stay up late.”

A sense of history infuses each vote by Kim Sudler, a 20-year Delaware resident who has never missed an election.

“I have to make my vote count, otherwise I can’t complain,” Sudler said, her hand clutching her heart.

“Secondly, there was a time when everyone couldn’t vote, particularly African-Americans couldn’t.”

Sudler, who is African-American, has a son at Delaware State University and a daughter who attends Smyrna High School. She said policies on education are one way she decides who to support.

Campaign ads, however, are not.

“They’re not going to tell me anything,” she said. “If they’re going to dig deep at the 11th hour, it makes me doubt them.”

Back in Newark, House District 25 candidate Stephanie Ulbrich rode around early Tuesday with 10 dozen doughnuts in the car, stopping at each polling place.

Around 7:15, she arrived at Newark High School to drop off a dozen for poll workers.
“There are a lot of people out early,” said Ulbrich, who wore a bright pink scarf and corsage. “That’s a good sign.”

The same was true at Newark Library, said early voter Shirley Rouse.

“A nice little crowd,” said Rouse, a senior citizen who used a walker with wheels to walk home from the polling place. She had a stroke two years ago, but would never miss an election day.

One issue dominated her thoughts as she cast her vote Tuesday.

“Just hoping to get this war over with,” Rouse said.

She began to cry. “That’s the only thing I’m interested in. It just hurts. Every day. Every day. We’re losing ‘em. Losing ‘em.”

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