'Most Republicans in San Francisco wouldn't say it'
Charlie Vela was sitting in his huge truck outside the Louise M Davies Symphony Hall yesterday morning, planning to vote at 5pm near his home in south San Francisco.
“For Obama, yes. To get the boys home from war,” he said.
At a manhole on Turk Street, Sean Williams was handing tools down to his mate, who was fixing something underground and preferred to remain anonymous. The two electricity workers had already voted, they said, Williams early last week, his colleague yesterday morning. Both had possibly had enough of white women with notebooks, and said they’d rather keep their votes confidential.
It was bright summer weather in San Francisco for election day, with morning temperatures estimated at about 24 degrees. Outside the polling station in the Western Park apartment complex, which houses elderly people, Brenda Barrows was festooned with badges and held banners promoting President Barack Obama, vice-president Joe Biden and local politician Julian Davis.
As a campaign volunteer she could not stand directly outside polling premises. Turnout was good, she said.
“There’s been quite a few people. They honk their horns or they say ‘Yeah, Obama!’ Most Republicans in San Francisco wouldn’t say it. Yes, it is a secret organisation. In District One, out in the marina, that’s where you’ll find them.”
Barrows voted a week and a half ago, under the early voting system: “It’s good for people like me, who’ve made up their minds. I’m done.”
A car slowed and an older female driver, possibly Hispanic, shook her head and wagged her finger at Obama’s name. The first negative response of the day for Barrows.
She is African-American, and the manager of a public clinic in a hospital. “It’s very busy and you see the end result of politics. That’s why I’m supporting Julian Davis for supervisor: he’s progressive and he’s not backed by big business.”
San Francisco mixes local and national politics in this election, with candidates running for the city council, and measures such as Proposition 30, which aims to increase Californian taxes and then ringfence them for educational use, were on the ballot paper yesterday.
John Arntz has been San Francisco’s director of elections for 11 years. He would not say whether he thought this mix of city, state and national issues was a good one. “I just run the election,” he said. The 2008 election was the biggest election in the history of the city”, he said. “The volumes aren’t there like they were in 2008.”
However, the average turnout for presidential elections in San Francisco – and Arntz has overseen three – is an impressive 71 per cent.
“We’ve been doing early voting for years. Then in 2004 California changed the law to allow postal voting. We’ve got 503,000 voters registered in San Francisco. We issued 246,000 postal vote papers. So it has been popular, yes.”
In the line of voters queuing up at City Hall, Edwin Aguasin, an older man from the Philippines who lives nearby, said he was fed up with politicians fighting each other. He said he would vote for Obama.
Outside, Caitlin Louer, one of Arntz’s 2,800 poll workers, who said she was getting paid $150 for the day, greeted voters with a lovely smile.