Voters don masks, talk change, express concern about mail-in votes

Voters head back to their cars after voting at the Cheswold Fire Co. polling place Tuesday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Downstate residents came out in big numbers to vote in Delaware’s primary Tuesday, with members of both parties expressing their need to participate in the election process now more than ever.

One couple, Seaford’s Richard and Vicki Morris, who were voting at the Blades Fire Hall, summed up how meaningful the 2020 election is.

“We’re here to vote, because it is an important election,” said Mr. Morris. “And we wanted to come in person because we just think this mail-in mess is just an open door to a lot of problems.”

“I’m very concerned about the path our country is taking. So we’ve got to get out and vote and make a difference,” said Ms. Morris.

Other Delaware voters, all of whom cast ballots in person Tuesday, shared that concern regarding the mail-in process, along with worry about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and racial tension. None reported any issues with the polling place procedures.

Milford voters show conservative lean
Early Tuesday morning, those voting at Milford polling locations for Delaware’s primary races were mostly older White residents who lean toward conservatism.

The group of voters inside Milford High School “seemed a little bit older,” said 31-year-old Travis Walls, an owner of Delmarva Petroleum Services, when he voted Tuesday.

He and several others reported that the polling locations were not crowded.
Mr. Walls said voting in the primary was easy and that it wasn’t notably different from his past voting experiences.

“It seems more reliable,” Mr. Walls said of voting in person. “Just because you don’t have to worry about the post office messing something up and getting lost in the mail.”

Terry Montgomery, who was voting at Mispillion Elementary School on the other side of town, also had some qualms about mail-in voting.

“We got six mail-in ballots,” she said. “All that wasted money for all those ballots they’ve sent me alone. How many other people have gotten them?”

Her husband, Roger, was also suspicious of voting by mail.

“I just don’t trust it,” he said. “We’ve always voted in person all through the years.”

Mr. Montgomery was very focused on the race for governor.

“I want to get rid of (John) Carney,” he said. “He’s trying to control us. It’s all about control.”

Mr. Montgomery was also very skeptical about COVID-19 and the government’s response to it.

“On Nov. 3, the masks will come off,” he said. “The virus is disappearing, and they’re doing nothing about it.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery said Republican Julianne Murray would be their choice to replace the incumbent governor.

Mr. Walls was more focused on the U.S. Senate race.

“I just feel like (senators) kind of make more of a difference,” he said. “It seems like the governor’s race, we try to vote Republican, but it never really goes that way.”

Mr. Walls described himself as leaning toward conservatism. The police and protests against them were a primary concern for him.

“As far as everybody talking about defunding the police and police brutality,” he said, “I think everyone just needs to come to a better understanding of what’s going on and not try to punish one side or the other more.”

Jeanne Coherd, who was voting at Milford’s Lulu Ross Elementary School on Tuesday, also had strong feelings about what she described as civil unrest.

“The right to protest peacefully” was important to her, but “not this violent stuff. This has got to stop. The maiming and shooting and killing is ridiculous, and it’s not going to get us anywhere except into disarray.”

Ms. Coherd, who described herself as a “conservative Republican,” said it’s her civic duty to vote. She votes in every election, but feels more empowered in the realm of local politics than national politics.

“That’s grassroots. That’s where everything starts,” she said. “That’s where all your attitude starts, and you can actually feel you’re part of something. It’s kind of hard to feel a part of something on a national level, but on a local level, you can feel like you’re doing something.”

By early afternoon Tuesday, the polling locations in Milford had still not become crowded. Many voters were focused on the race for the U.S. Senate.

Mercedez Halliday was voting at Milford High School with her husband, Joe. She hoped that Republican Lauren Witzke would be able to eventually unseat Democratic Sen. Chris Coons.

“She is for the people. She’s out with the people a lot,” Ms. Halliday said. “She wants to hear what the people really are looking for as opposed to telling us what we should feel like we need.”

Ms. Halliday wasn’t the only voter who noted the importance of the Senate race.

“It’s always good to control the Senate because all the decisions are made there,” said Eiston Arroyo, who voted at Lulu Ross. “The Senate runs the country.”

Brennon Fountain, a controller for the state treasurer’s office voting at Milford High School, concurred.

“The Senate race is most important. I definitely think there are a lot of positive changes that are needed in those seats, so that means a lot to me,” he said.

“I’m deciding to vote for Sen. Chris Coons,” Mr. Fountain said. “He’s done a lot for all communities, and I think he’s fair across the board with his stance.”

Mr. Fountain said he’s not a partisan.

“For me, it’s not so much whether it’s Democratic or Republican. It’s just that all people are treated equal and the laws of the land are followed,” he said. “I’m looking to put the right people in office.”

So was Deborah Weeks, a teacher voting at Lulu Ross.

“There’s a good friend of mine, (Republican state Sen.) Colin Bonini, who is running for governor, and I wanted to make sure that I place my vote in the primary so that he makes it on the ballot,” she said. “I know Colin because I lived up in Camden-Wyoming for 17 years, and he’s very supportive of the schools, a big patron of the (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and he’s been in the government for a very long time.”

But Ms. Weeks was also looking to shake things up on a more local level.

“I think there needs to be a change,” she said. “I wasn’t happy when the vote went through to raise my taxes in Sussex County, and I think we need to think about the working class because we’re carrying this country, and putting more and more on us isn’t really fair.”

Ms. Weeks said she felt comfortable coming out to vote in person.

“If you do what you need to do with the (personal protective equipment), you’re fine,” she said.

She saw her decision to vote as an important element of setting a good example for her students.

“I teach my students that if you want a voice, you need to get out there and vote because nobody wants to listen to you complain if you’re not going to do anything yourself,” Ms. Weeks said.

“I use myself as a role model by coming out here and voting in between my students’ classes today,” she said. “It’s showing them that I do care. I care about what’s going to happen in their future.”

The polls in Milford were busier in the evening than they had been earlier in the day. Still, voting in person remained quick and easy at Lulu Ross.

“I was in there five minutes, not even,” said Aerin Lawrence, a nurse at the Delaware Eye Institute.

She wasn’t worried about catching COVID-19.

“I have my mask on, so I’m good,” Ms. Lawrence said. “I normally always vote in person.”

She was most interested in the race for governor.

“That’s the one that I track the most out of all of them,” Ms. Lawrence said. “I couldn’t even really tell you why, but it’s just something that I always look forward to.”

She said she has lukewarm feelings about Gov. Carney’s performance.

“I’m not terribly excited about it, but I’m not disappointed either,” Ms. Lawrence said.

Bryan and Karen Ward, a married couple who voted at Mispillion Elementary, had more pointed criticism for Gov. Carney and his fellow Democratic governors.

“If you look at all the things that have gone on in the cities, all the rioting and the looting and things like that, it’s all liberal governors who allowed that to continue instead of putting a stop to it,” Mr. Ward said.

“People want to blame the president, but it’s not the president at all,” he said. “It’s the governors in these individual states.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Ward are supporters of Sen. Bonini’s candidacy for governor.

“I feel like he’s been in politics long enough and knows his constituents and what we want,” Mrs. Ward said. “We’ve met him a couple of times and been very impressed by his integrity and what he has to say.”

Marcie and Brooke Glen, a married couple who were voting at Milford High, moved to Milford from Vermont in 2018. For them, the race for U.S. Senate was more important.

“We haven’t been here very long, and we didn’t know very much about Delaware politics, but we wanted to understand how it works before we made a decision on voting,” Brooke Glen said.

She had a conversation with a member of Jess Scarane’s campaign who convinced her to side with Ms. Scarane over Sen. Coons.

“I feel I was able to make a really sound decision,” Brooke Glen said.

“Coons seemed to lean Republican on some of his votes in the past,” Marcie Glen said. “I just felt like maybe it was time for somebody new to go in there and someone who might represent a Democratic point of view a little better.”

Neither Marcie nor Brooke Glen had much faith in the mail-in voting scheme.

“This whole thing about the mail-in voting and all the ruckus about that, I just feel like, forget it. I’m just going to go to the polls,” Marcie Glen said.

“We’re high-risk, but you know what, it’s a crapshoot who gets it,” Brooke Glen added. “I think that, just to be on the safe side, (it’s best to) go and vote in person.”

That was in many regards the same way Mr. and Mrs. Ward viewed mail-in voting.

“Recently, I sent something off in the mail that took way longer than it should have to get where it needed to go,” Mrs. Ward said. “The post office has been terrible lately, so the reason I chose to vote in person was so that wouldn’t happen with my vote.”

Mr. Ward felt voting in person was more secure.

“I wanted to take away any chance that there would be a miscount on the vote,” he said. “I know exactly who I voted for. I was able to verify that it made it into the machine as I inputted.”

County Council race primary concern in Georgetown
Georgetown resident Tom Hudson faced a dilemma as he took to the voting booth at Georgetown Elementary School late Tuesday afternoon: He had one vote, with three qualified Sussex County Council candidates vying for it.

He had to decide what candidate to vote for in the Republican primary for District 2 County Council: Cindy Green, Lisa Hudson Briggs or Robert Wilson.

“I think it is most important to vote for your County Council, your local representatives. And I like our candidates this year. I like them all,” said Mr. Hudson. “But I had to choose one.”

Mr. Hudson did not reveal the candidate of his choice. He did say that it is imperative, especially in today’s world, to make your voice heard by voting.

“I think it is important, no matter all the elections,” said Mr. Hudson.

The evening dinner crowd was mostly sporadic at the Georgetown Elementary location.

Voters were greeted by representatives of all three GOP council candidates.
Madie Klenchusky and two other young ladies wore green sweatshirts and green masks in support of Ms. Green.

Annie Richardson was on hand to support Ms. Hudson Briggs. She was later joined by state Rep. Ruth Briggs King, who reported good voter turnouts at polling places she had visited during the day.

Millsboro resident Billy Studds was on hand to show a sign of support for candidate Robert Wilson, who is seeking to succeed his father, Samuel Wilson Jr. on County Council.

“I think he (Robert Wilson) is going to do a good job for the county. I hope he gets elected in,” said Mr. Studds. “I’ve been in the area for 10 years, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about him. So I wanted to come out and support him.”

In 2016, Ms. Hudson Briggs ran unsuccessfully against Samuel Wilson, who earlier this year decided to not seek another four-year term, having served on council since winning election in 2008.

Ms. Green, looking to make the jump from Sussex County register of wills to council, and Ms. Hudson Briggs are seeking to become only the second woman to serve on Sussex County’s governing body.

Witzke visits Greenwood voters
Exercising the right to vote at a pivotal crossroad in today’s world was the battle cry among a sampling of voters canvassed at the Greenwood Fire Hall on Tuesday.

“I’m here to vote in the primary,” said Greenwood resident Rich Wilson, who brought his mother, Phyllis Sanders, to vote late Tuesday morning.

“After being in the service, and with everybody else fighting for my right to vote, I figured I might as well do it.”

“I want everybody to vote,” said Ms. Sanders. “I think it is very, very important.”

Lauren Witzke, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, was there campaigning prior to heading to northern Delaware.

Signs of the primary were prevalent, with support shown for Cindy Green, Lisa Hudson Briggs and Robert Wilson, who were running for the District 3 County Council seat.

Ed Bradley, who recently moved to Greenwood from the Milford area, said the District 2 County Council primary was high on his list. The winner will be unchallenged in the Nov. 3 general election.

“That is right up there,” said Mr. Bradley. “I have a person that I am going to vote for. I know who I am going to vote for.”

Mr. Bradley’s wife, Lois, urged all eligible voters to get out and vote.

“I am thankful that I have the right to vote. And I think everyone in this country should get out, especially on Nov. 3,” said Ms. Bradley. “We’ve got to vote with our hearts.”

“And a little bit of your brain would help,” added Mr. Bradley.

“We’ve got to do the right thing,” said Ms. Bradley. “This is a very crucial time, and I think people need to get out and vote.”

Mr. Bradley added: “It is our responsibility to come to vote. I mean I can’t complain if I don’t vote. That is what I figure.”

Mr. Wilson and Ms. Sanders both wore face masks while voting, a sign of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But both said they had no intention of casting votes through the mail-in process.

“Don’t believe in it (mail-in voting),” said Ms. Sanders.

“Get off your behind and come vote,” said Mr. Wilson.

Senate candidates greet Kent County voters
Around lunchtime Tuesday, voters were arriving consistently to the Cheswold Fire Co. polling location, where a Delaware fire police officer assisted with traffic control for residents crossing Del. 42 to access the polls. Cars honked as they drove by, creating a noisy, busy atmosphere.

Sen. Chris Coons spent about 30 minutes there, posing for photos with constituents and introducing himself as “Chris.” Wearing a facial covering throughout his visit, he bumped elbows with people and used hand sanitizer frequently.

About a half-hour after his departure, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Lauren Witzke arrived to greet voters. She’d voted early at Delmar High School, where she resides, and hit Roxana, Lewes, Millville, Greenwood and Milford before stopping at Cheswold. Ms. Witzke removed her mask to speak with Kent County Levy Court commissioner candidate Welton Satchell, who was also without a face covering.

Both Sen. Coons and Ms. Witzke faced primaries in their respective parties Tuesday.

Sen. Coons faced challenger Jess Scarane in the Democratic race, and Ms. Witzke faced Jim DeMartino for the Republican seat.

Earlier, in Smyrna, voting began at 7 a.m. Just before 9, a poll worker at Smyrna Middle School said 25 voters had cast their ballots. The worker was enforcing distance guidelines at the entrance, which was marked by a blue, taped “X.”

Joseph Barnhardt emerged from the building comfortable that his candidate choices would at least be tabulated.

“I believe in being old school, and with everything in the news about the mail-in system, I wanted to make sure my vote counts so I had to come out this morning,” he said.

After studying candidate stances, Mr. Barnhardt opted to pick a mix of incumbents and challengers.

“Some of the ones I voted for are already in office because they are doing a good job, and some of the new ones I voted for because I believe in their platforms and what they aim to do,” he said.

For the rest of the day, Mr. Barnhardt said he’d wear a sticker confirming his vote “because I want everyone to vote because in today’s society if you want change, you need to get out and vote.

“You can’t sit back and complain about it if you didn’t vote.”

At the Clayton Fire Department, Inglish Short arrived pushing her 3-year-old daughter in a stroller, shadowed by her clearly energetic 6-year-old son who she wanted to take part with her.

“When we were in the booth, I told him that when we vote, it’s private, and I showed him how to push the button because I think it’s important that he knows that,” she said.

“He’s the future generation. They’re my children, and I want them to know their opinion counts, and I need them to know that they are going to be the ones leading us into success.”

Regarding the ongoing issues, Ms. Short said, “We need to protect our police and take care of our children.

“It doesn’t matter who we are, what color we are,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where we are from, we are a community, and we need to take care of each other.”

Wilmington’s Nicole Alvarez arrived in Clayton to support state Senate candidate Jaci Hugg, glad to just be part of the decision day scene.

“I love election day when people can use their voice to make a difference,” she said.

“I love when we can actually use our vote to voice who we think is going to make things better and bring us together even more.”

Albert Jackson voted earlier via mail, but arrived at Smyrna Middle School anyway to show support for longtime state Sen. Bruce Ennis.

“I feel you need to find people who are effective to get back into office because there’s so many crazy people here. The things they push for, I have never seen a climate like they have created today.

“We need more stability and order in this world,” he added, “and it doesn’t seem to be going that way.”