Guarding polls in Westwood
Voters were not the only ones who turned up at the polls on election day. Across the country, thousands of volunteers staked out various polling places to ensure that voters could cast their ballots without interference or influence.
Wearing a black T-shirt with "Election Protection" in white letters, Sean Lynch stood outside Westwood Recreation Center on Tuesday evening like a welcoming club bouncer. His job: to turn away those who advertised outside the polling location.
Lynch, a Loyola law student, volunteers with Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization that monitors the polls. The group seeks to safeguard voters by discouraging electioneering and keeping a watchful eye on illegal voting practices.
"Everything has been going smoothly," he said. "It's been pretty mellow."
The biggest problem Lynch encountered at the nine locations that he patrolled in West Los Angeles was a campaign advertiser who approached a polling place with a "Yes on 30" sign. Federal law prohibits election propaganda within 100 feet of a voting place. The person saw Lynch and walked away.
As the evening commute started, voters trickled into the recreation center. Inside, waiting mothers flooded the hallway as their small children participated in swim and ballet classes.
There was little to no wait at Westwood polls, but there was some confusion. The recreation center was the voting location for three different precincts. Some without their voters' guide or precinct number had to stand in three separate lines as poll workers looked their names up to see if they were listed in that precinct.
Robert Craig, 49, left work early to avoid long lines but was surprised when there weren't any. He said the mood was noticeably different this election.
"There's a lot less traffic and enthusiasm," he said, noting that there was only seven people in line with him. He said that four and even eight years ago, there were hundreds waiting to cast their vote for the president. "It was absent of that this time," he added. "It was ho-hum."
Still, others were just elated to exercise their Constitutional right. Sue Bennett came out of the polling booth with a giant smile and proudly flaunting her "I Voted" sticker.
"I'm proud of my country, and I want to express myself," she said. "And this is the best way to do it."
-- Angel Jennings in Westwood