Post-Primary Day

public safety signOn our morning walks, Travvy and I usually head toward the state forest, via Pine Hill, Halcyon Way, or the Dr. Fisher Road. Yesterday we struck out in the opposite direction, across the Island Farms subdivision to State Road and the Public Safety Building, where my town votes.

Once we got there, I waved at the woman holding a Sanders poster out front, someone I’ve known for a long time but never well. Trav wooed vigorously at every vehicle that drove into the parking lot. His woo turned to a screech after I looped his leash around a sturdy oak, reattached him to it, and headed for the front door of the Public Safety Building. Trav does not being left behind, but he stops protesting once I’m out of sight.

Front entrance, Public Safety Building

Front entrance, Public Safety Building

Lo and behold, there was a line of voters waiting to check in. Not a long line, but a line nonetheless. As the poll worker in charge of L–Z located my name on the voter rolls, I noted that almost all the voting booths were occupied. Again, we’re not talking a large number, maybe eight or ten, and since the primary ballot is much simpler than the one we typically face in a general election, or even a town election, it wasn’t taking anyone long to vote.

I’m unenrolled, but, as usual, I requested the Democratic ballot. We vote on paper in West Tisbury. The Democratic ballot was dark pink. The Republican was blue. Evidently someone at the State House has a sense of humor.

The ballot included not only the Democratic candidates for president but also a slate for the Democratic Town Committee. I made my mark after Hillary Clinton’s name, then paused, wondering if I should vote for town committee members since I’m not really a Democrat and I never go to their meetings. I recognized most of the names. What the hell, I thought, and voted for the ones I like best.

Constable Tim Maley hands voter an "I Voted" sticker.

Constable Tim Maley hands voter an “I Voted” sticker.

Waiting to check out

Waiting to check out

At the next table, the L–Z poll worker checked me off. Is this to make sure that everyone who enters the room leaves it, or that no ballot gets left behind? I then lined my ballot up facedown with the slot, and the constable cranked it into the ballot box. I stuck an “I Voted” sticker on my fleece vest and headed out into the bright sunshine.

Trav waited for me, tied to a tree.

Trav waits for me, tied to a tree.

I knew most of the poll workers and recognized some of the voters. This is one reason I became a much more regular voter after I moved to Martha’s Vineyard. After I’d been around for two or three years, when I went to the polls I’d nearly always see people I knew. The poll worker would be turning to the S pages before I said my name.

At the end of the day, I drove into Vineyard Haven to see Spotlight for the second time. Spotlight, which just won the Academy Award for Best Picture, is about the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team’s exposure of child sexual abuse and its coverup by the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a phenomenal movie, which is why I wanted to see it again, and seeing it on primary election night put all the hoop-de-do in perspective.

Because this for me is what politics is really about: ferreting out wrongs and righting them, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Politicians and electoral politics had nothing to do with it. Boston then and forever is a one-party town. (That party, by the way, is Democratic.) Outsiders were instrumental in breaking the scandal, and in prompting the insiders to act. Those outsiders were neither billionaires nor U.S. senators.

I drove home invigorated, intending to get some work done. Ha! No way. After checking email I immediately went hunting for election returns. The Boston Globe‘s website,, had a handy-dandy page dedicated to the Democratic primary, with Clinton’s and Sanders’s totals updated as precincts across the commonwealth reported in and a drop-down featuring returns from every town. With almost half the precincts reporting, Clinton led by a very few percentage points. It looked close. Nothing had been heard yet from any of the Vineyard towns. Hand-counting paper ballots takes a while.

Well, of course I had to report this up-to-the-minute info on Facebook, and equally of course, once I was on Facebook I couldn’t get off. Every few minutes I consulted the page. The percentage of precincts reporting went steadily up; Clinton’s lead kept slipping, a few tenths of a percentage point at a time.

Well, Clinton carried Massachusetts but not by much. On the Vineyard, turnout was impressive for a primary: the average was 47%, compared to 13% in 2012 (the Dem primary was not too exciting that year), and West Tisbury topped the list at 54%. Sanders and Trump won their respective primaries handily, with Sanders’s margin in the up-island towns noticeably bigger than it was down-island. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Times, as of late Tuesday night, 4,899 Democratic votes had been cast, almost four times more than the 1,266 Republican votes.

No matter who they voted for, most of my Democratic-leaning friends are appalled by Trump and more than a little freaked to be living on the same island as so many of his supporters. For me, the simultaneous Vineyard victories of Sanders and Trump underscore their similarities: both are riding on strong anti-establishment feeling in their respective parties, and both have strong ideas with no practical plan for implementing them. Sanders’s supporters seem to be generally more affluent and better educated than Trump’s.

They may not see it this way, but their respective supporters might count their blessings if their man doesn’t become president. No one turns on a hero faster than devotees who expected the moon and didn’t get it.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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2 Responses to Post-Primary Day

  1. Colorado changed to a caucus system last year…and is now very unhappy at the result: total confusion, long lines, a significant percentage of voters excluded because they were unable to make the voting window…Glad you had better luck!


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