In what one precinct inspector called a "quiet election," Palo Alto voters cast their ballots Tuesday morning in the California primary in predictably smaller numbers than in the 2016 presidential election.
Some polling stations, like Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, were relatively idle, with a couple of residents coming in every half-hour to vote at the polls or drop off their mail-in ballots and pick up their "I voted" stickers.
Lisa Inouye, a precinct inspector at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, said it's been hard to recruit volunteers. She expected to see more volunteers and voters after the last historic presidential election.
"What I tell people is that this a practice for November, and I think they're saying it back to me, too," Inouye said. "This is training, and a small turnout doesn't daunt me. What I want to see is more volunteers and more people to register to vote, even if they come and vote for one thing and leave the rest of the ballot blank."
By 11 a.m., Inouye said, about 30 voters had come in to cast their ballots. Poll workers expect a steady flow of voters throughout the day, especially after 5 p.m., and a potential final count of about 60 voters.
Inouye, who studied political science in college, is no stranger to the election process through her 18 years of experience working for several campaigns. She said, however, that prior to the last presidential election she had fallen away from political activism. Seeing women in Palo Alto come out in droves to cast their ballots in November 2016 reminded her of the importance of voting, especially in smaller elections.
"The greatest thing of working that 14-hour day in November was seeing every woman that heard the call to vote and went out and dragged their senior mother," she said. "I realized that being politically active was really a civic duty."
Randy Cook, a voter at the Friends Nursery School polling place, echoed a similar sentiment about the responsibility of voting.
"The direction of our country is an important thing," Cook said. "The things that we choose as a group, as a country, as a state, as a county reflect our values. If you don't vote, you don't really get to choose your future, and that's important to me."
By 11 a.m., 22 people had come into the Friends Nursery School site to vote. Precinct inspector Dan Mahoney anticipates a higher turnout at lunch and after 5 p.m., with a steady trickle in between.
Nestled between residences, the Friends Nursery School site welcomed a diverse group of voters, ranging from older locals to first-time voters. For Mahoney, the process is worthwhile partly because of the connections he can make with his neighbors.
"You not only get to interact with people in your neighborhood, but you're providing a valuable service to be able to help people do their constitutional duty," Mahoney said. "It's very rewarding."
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