Live blog with election news and updates in Montgomery County

Live blog: election news and updates

Short lines at election centers in Montgomery County

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Voters enter the Gaithersburg Activity Center to cast their ballots on Tuesday morning. About 60 people were in line when the voting center opened at 7 a.m.

Photo by Caitlynn Peetz

Short lines at election centers in Montgomery County

As of 7:50 p.m. on Tuesday — 10 minutes before polls were supposed to close — the waiting time for lines at polling places in Montgomery County were less than 10 minutes long.

The longest wait posted was nine minutes at the Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg.

The Silver Spring Civic Building had a wait of five minutes and the Gaithersburg High School had a wait of three minutes.

All other polling places had a wait of one minute.

The polls close at 8 p.m., but as long as voters are in line by that time, they will be allowed to cast a ballot. 

— Briana Adhikusuma

Some don’t like health department’s caution against election stress eating

When the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services warned people on Tuesday that they shouldn’t eat junk food simply because they’re stressed about the election, dozens of Twitter users pushed back.

The department wrote on Twitter that people should limit their intake of junk food, coffee, sugar and alcohol. As an alternative, the department recommends:
• Getting plenty of sleep and exercise
• Listening to music
• Reading
• Art projects
• Meditation
• Taking a break from social media

The health department also recommends that people not discuss the election with others if they think there is the potential for escalation.

Many Twitter users responded with disdain and snarky comments about the diet advice, including:
“Read the room”
“*shovels more cheese-flavored popcorn into my mouth*”
“Mind your own business, MoCo.”
“You can pry my coping cheese and coping pastry from my cold dead hands.”

There were a few supporters, though, including one who wrote:
“It’s kind of true, tho. #Selfcare”
— Dan Schere

***

Scenes from three Montgomery County voting centers on Tuesday: Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and the Gaithersburg Activity Center

— Caitlynn Peetz

***

Man arrives at 5 a.m. to wait for voting center to open two hours later

At about 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Charles Shepherd III arrived at the Gaithersburg Activity Center, one of 39 polling locations open on Election Day in Montgomery County.

With a blue surgical mask fitted around his mouth and nose, a jacket and gloves, Shepherd hunkered down and waited the two hours for polls to open.

The temperature was barely above 40 degrees. Eventually, a line began to form behind him.

By 7 a.m., about 60 people were lined up, ready to cast their ballots.

For Shepherd, a 40-year Montgomery County resident, voting by mail or early voting weren’t options. He feared his ballot would get lost in the mail, or not counted.

Shepherd, of Germantown, was first eligible to vote in 1969, he said, but he didn’t because he was overseas, serving in the Vietnam War. He’s voted in person every election since.

“Every year, I’ve gone to the polls and cast my ballot on Election Day, in person,” he said. “That’s how I do it, and that’s that.”

— Caitlynn Peetz

***

A different election

At the Jane E. Lawton Community Center in Chevy Chase on Tuesday morning, the lines to vote were short.

Sam Schachter voted for Democrat Joe Biden for president. This was the first election Schachter is legally allowed to vote in.

“A lot of my friends are lower income,” he said, “so this election is the most important to them, because if Donald Trump were to remain president, there would be an expansion on gentrification, so they would all be basically driven out of their homes.”

David Herbick of Chevy Chase also cast a ballot for Biden.

He said this election is unusual because it’s the first time he has expected protests and revolts in the aftermath. Some businesses in Washington, D.C., and other major cities boarded up their windows as a precaution.

“I’ve never gone to a poll in my 64 years, voted and come out and gone home expecting violence and anarchy that might very well happen as a result of this current president and the way he treats this country,” Herbick said.

But Kevin Hughes said this election is “not all that different” from prior ones in his lifetime.

Hughes voted for Donald Trump to win a second term, saying he supports his economic policies.

Soulihe Nida, a Wheaton resident, said this election is a “turning point” for the nation and an opportunity to set standards for the future.

Nida voted for Biden last week, but was out on Election Day to distribute flyers in support of Marilyn Pierre, a candidate for Montgomery County Circuit Court judge. He voted in person and brought his family along.

“The in-person experience, nothing competes with that,” Nida said. “Ensuring you see the name, you check it off, and you put the ballot in the box.”

James Jervey voted for Biden, too, but wasn’t counting on a win, yet. He said he learned in 2016 never to make predictions.

— Rose Horowitch

***

Debating, no waiting, healing

The scene was quiet Tuesday morning at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, with no lines around 9:15 a.m.

Tim Saint-Maxens of Bethesda said as he exited the polling site that he normally encounters wait times of between 20 and 40 minutes.

“I couldn’t believe the number of volunteers. Everyone was calm. I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad I voted and I pray for national unity,” he said.

Voting booths at Walter Johnson High School (photo by Dan Schere)

Saint-Maxens, becoming emotional at times, said he recently had a small college reunion with friends who graduated with him at the University of Maryland in the mid-1970’s. The reunion, he said, was “very divisive” when it came to politics.

“I’m tired of it, and I just want us to love each other and heal this nation,” he said.

Saint-Maxens declined to say who he was voting for.

Arash Pirooz of Bethesda said he recently emigrated from Iran and this is his first election in the United States. He said he is supporting Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Pirooz added that he finds the prospect of voting in a democracy empowering compared to the system of government in his native country.

“When you’re here, you can vote [for] whoever you want. That is very good. I like it,” he said.

Dave Peterson of Bethesda said he found the voting process easy on Tuesday.

“Small line. Maybe a five-minute wait. Beautiful day. Friendly people. Everybody happy. Couldn’t be better. It’s what America’s all about,” he said.

Peterson said his friends mailed in their ballots, but he decided to vote in person on Election Day because he typically “puts things off until the last minute.”

Peterson said he is supporting Republican Donald Trump for re-election as president, mainly because Peterson plans to retire soon and is worried about his 401k.

He said he doesn’t worry about divisions in the country from the election.

“A lot of it is all hyped up by the media,” he said. “You know, everything you see is this and that and this and that. Everybody should just relax and vote their conscience, you know? That’s what it’s all about.”

— Dan Schere

 ***

Trump supporters hold rally at Westfield Montgomery mall

On Sunday, supporters of President Donald Trump gathered at Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda and staged a “caravan rally,” in which people decorated their vehicles to support the president.

Some chanted “four more years,” wearing hats bearing Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” or capes with the same message, according to a video posted to YouTube.

Montgomery County police Second District Commander Sean Gagen, whose district includes Bethesda and Chevy Chase, told Bethesda Beat on Monday that police did not receive any reports of problems at the rally.

However, Gagen said officers are increasing their presence throughout the Bethesda and Friendship Heights area in preparation for possible election-related protests.

“That’s precautionary based on the potential for civil unrest. At this point in time, we have no specific information about planned events, but out of an abundance of caution, we’ll be upstaffing,” he said.

Gagen said the increased police presence is in response to the election specifically.

Police also increased their presence last week in Friendship Heights following protests in the District of Columbia over the death of 20-year-old Karon Hylton.

“This is [about] proactively trying to make sure people feel safe and secure as people are exercising their right to vote in the election,” Gagen said. “There’s a lot of anxiety throughout the community regarding the potential for unrest, and our job is to alleviate those fears.”

— Dan Schere

***

Justice Department to monitor voting rights in Montgomery County

The U.S. Justice Department said Montgomery County is one of dozens of places across the country it is monitoring on Election Day for voting rights.

The department said in a press release that it is an annual practice to spend time in the field watching the election process in jurisdictions.

This year, the department is sending personnel to 44 jurisdictions in 18 states to monitor compliance of federal voting rights laws, the press release said.

Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland to be monitored.

The department’s Civil Rights Division personnel will be available on Election Day to receive complaints related to voting rights at 800-253-3931 or https://civilrights.justice.gov.

— Andrew Schotz

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