By Kynadi Hyde and Ann-Corynn Rivière
Howard University News Service
As early as 7 a.m., Takoma Park residents were lined up at Takoma Education Campus to cast their votes in the 2022 midterm elections. Poll officials welcomed voters into the school’s gymnasium, where electronic and paper ballots were available. The lines were short, but morale was high as residents swiftly moved in and out of the polling station.
Community engagement also peaked as voters expressed their reasons for getting up early and going to the polls. Randi Williams said, “Lots of people don’t necessarily see the importance [of voting] in D.C., but I think it’s still important.” It is critical, Williams said, that people recognize, value, and exercise their right to vote. She said she expects newly elected officials to target D.C.’s youth, as she feels there is an opportunity for stronger attention to the city’s adolescent community. “I would like to see a lot done with respect to reaching out to our youth to support them,” she said, “because there’s clearly some issue going on within our community regarding their activities.”
Another voter, Dr. Julie Garnier, shared Williams’s enthusiasm, saying that she is “always happy to vote,” and has been doing so since she was 18 years old. Garnier said she would like to see newly elected officials tackle crime, which is a leading issue in Takoma Park.
According to Takoma Park’s official crime report for the first quarter of 2022, the city has seen an increase in assaults by 475% compared to the first quarter of 2021. There has also been a 23.3% surge in larceny, as well as an overall increase in crime in Wards 3 and 4 (21.88% and 7.69% respectively).
Dr. Garnier said the increase in crime saddened her. Takoma is “really is a wonderful neighborhood,” she said. “It’s very family-oriented and the neighbors are all wonderful. ”With the increase in crime, she said, “I feel like we’re like walking targets and victims and it’s awful.”
Voters across the nation are going out and casting their ballots this midterm election. Some have even expressed concern about how this election may influence or affect the upcoming 2024 presidential campaigns.
Howard University alumna Lynne Wooden said, “I think our democracy is challenged right now, and I think it is just so important for everyone to get out and vote,” and everyone should remember that “Every vote matters.” Wooden recalled that the results of Georgia’s infamous 2018 gubernatorial election demonstrated just how important each ballot counts.
Election staff at Takoma’s Education Campus got up early this morning to make voting possible for the community. Fran Owens, a seasoned election official, woke up at 5 a.m. and rushed to the polling site for her 6 a.m. shift. Owens said working at the polls as a retiree was difficult because she had “gotten out of the groove of getting up and getting out and having to do something for several hours.”
Owens, who has worked at the polls for over 15 years said there have been “useful changes made to the voting process,” which has made work as an official a pleasant experience. Owens said she enjoys reaching out to her community, which motivated her to keep working at the polls.
Kynadi Hyde and Ann-Corynn Rivière are reporters for HUNewsService.com.