I went to Whittier Elementary to vote this morning, just as I've done every election for the past 10 years. But this time, thanks to a conspicuous police presence, a little drama unfolded. The cops had the west side entrance of the school closed off, which was the normal entrance for folks heading to the cafeteria or library to cast their votes. Instead, the entrance was inaccessible because a little orange cone was placed next to a suitcase on the sidewalk. The nearby squad car lights were flashing for the desired effect while a handful of APD personal stood sentry near their cars at the corner of each nearby block.
So I took the roundabout entrance on the east side of the school and went into the library and voted among the familiar elderly volunteers. When I headed back out on the sidewalk, I ran into a friend who asked me if the polling center was closed. I said, "No, I just voted." Then the friend said that she was told by APD the poll was closed due to a "suspicious satchel," adding that one officer had just turned away a dozen people. That's strange, I thought. If the school is threatened by this wayward suitcase on the sidewalk, why haven't the students and teachers been evacuated? In fact, I watched kids and teachers walking around the campus when I walked to the library. So I went up to the officer my friend claimed had told her that the polling center was closed, and asked, "Excuse me officer, is the polling center closed?" He said, "We're just trying to get everyone out of there." So he didn't answer the question. Meanwhile, the officer inside the library that was talking to the elderly volunteers when I signed in didn't try to get me out of there. He didn't try to get anybody out of there. In fact, all he said to me, with a smile, was "Good morning." This was around 8:15 a.m. and I wonder how many people were turned away that will not return today. Amazingly, by 9 a.m. the local TV news and APD bomb squad had finally showed up and a small crowd of onlookers watched the guy in the green fatigues take x-rays of the suitcase and march back and forth to his truck. Meanwhile, the few folks that showed up to vote and actually got out of their cars went in and out of the library from the east side entrance, without delay. Apparently, the cops were no longer claiming the polling station was closed and still the grade schoolers had not been evacuated from the premises.
But what about those folks that had been turned away in this district that Eric Griego's campaign manager told me was a "stronghold"? Will they return later today? Who knows?