The rest of the state may have other ideas, but the Vineyard wants Sen. Barack Obama to be President of the United States of America.
Bucking the state trend on Tuesday, an extremely high turnout of Vineyard voters squarely backed Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primary with 55 per cent of the 5,288 Democrat votes cast, while Sen. Hillary Clinton picked up 40 per cent. The result is a mirror image of Massachusetts numbers which put Senator Clinton at 56 per cent and Senator Obama at 41 per cent.
The resounding Island win for Senator Obama defied the wooly prognostication that Vineyarders would vote for Senator Clinton on the strength of the fact that her family has spent summer holidays here for a number of years, including the Clinton White House years.
Meanwhile an eleventh-hour endorsement from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his niece Caroline Kennedy failed to put Senator Obama ahead across the commonwealth.
Every town on the Vineyard went for Senator Obama, but it was not a county sweep; Gosnold, which is the seventh town in Dukes County, split 9-9 between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on the Democratic ticket. On the Republican ticket Vineyarders went strongly for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, handing him 46 per cent of the vote, while John McCain had 42 per cent and Gov. Mike Huckabee took 5 per cent
Dukes County’s Democratic leaning was reflected in the vote which processed just 1,328 Republican ballots.
A hard-fought candidate race, together with the fact that Massachusetts moved its primary date forward a month to Super Tuesday, produced what was likely a record turnout for a Vineyard primary.
“It’s certainly the biggest turnout for a primary I’ve seen in 23 years,” said Tisbury town clerk Marion Mudge, who manned the polls for 13 hours.
Total county turnout was 6,312, or 52 per cent of the registered voters. Town by town, voter turnout was as follows: Aquinnah, 191 (46 per cent); Chilmark, 469 (58 per cent); Edgartown, 1,414 (47 per cent); Oak Bluffs, 1,561 (51 per cent); Tisbury, 1,468 (55 per cent); West Tisbury, 1,174 (55 per cent); Gosnold, 35 (18 per cent).
Two minutes before the polls opened at 7 a.m., Tisbury’s first voter, illuminated by her mirror light in one of five cars humming in front of the American Legion Hall, was sipping from a thermos. When the doors opened and a half-dozen Tisbury voters filed into booths to cast the first votes, she reached the ballot box in prime position.
It was a tactical vote. “I want to prevent a repeat performance,” said the voter, who asked not to have her named used. Balking at the prospect of another Clinton in the White House, she voted for Mitt Romney. Ironically, the former Massachusetts governor, who dropped his presidential bid yesterday, explained he was getting out of the race because of his lack of effectiveness on the same front. “If I fight on in my campaign, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win,” he said.
In Tisbury early Tuesday morning over the next 45 minutes a steady stream of voters, including students, a roofer, a teacher, an MIT professor and a priest came to cast ballots. Voting traffic across the Island was steady throughout the day, which was overcast and mild with intermittent rain.
A group of women joined by various children and a dog, held signs for Obama on Main street in Edgartown. Around midday they managed to officially convert one undecided voter. “I just did a survey that said I should vote for Hillary,” said the woman, who asked for the headline points in favour of Obama from the crowd, who were more than happy to oblige. She reappeared from the Whaling Church a few moments later and gave the thumbs-up. “I did it, I voted for him!”
Norman Perry, a West Tisbury constable and avid statistician manning the ballot machine, was still counting 1.6 people a minute casting votes at 6 p.m. “You don’t see this at a primary. This is a huge turnout. But people woke up,” he said, adding: “I’m seeing a lot more youth here too, it’s very noticeable. The older you get, the younger they look — these kids are only 13, they can’t be voting.”
More than a dozen people who came hoping to vote on Tuesday in West Tisbury found they were not correctly registered. “They say ‘Oh, I think I voted in the last election,’ ” said vote warden Muriel Bye, shaking her head.
In Tisbury Ms. Mudge gave a new registration form to someone still registered to the natural law party, now a political designation which among things, advocates the use of transcendental meditation.
Another group of Obama boosters braved the nighttime wind and rain to wave placards at passing cars. Lea Deleacour held a sign for a few minutes before heading in to vote. “They say that change is impossible, that you can’t topple these special interest groups and all the rest of it,” she said. “But all this energy is getting loosened up.”
Ms. Mudge, a strict enforcer of the rule that allows no slogans within 150 feet of the polling place, ran a tight ship at the legion hall: Anyone with candidate badges or other promotional garb had to take it off if they wanted to vote. “One time a Tisbury selectman said he was going to stand outside the building wearing a shirt with his name on it. I said you can stand out there but without your T-shirt on,” she recalled.
For all the Obama grandstanding Islanders guard their privacy jealously. If anyone tried to conduct exit polls on the Vineyard they would be unlikely to get firm numbers. Theresa Barwick, who had been working the check-in table in Tisbury since 7 a.m., said that even giving out political designation was too much personal information. “I asked someone if they wanted a Democratic or Republican ballot and they said ‘to hell with it, I’m not voting,’ and walked out,” she said.
Nearly 13 hours later after the first voter, and with a few minutes before Ms. Mudge telephoned the Associated Press to register the wins for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, one man was fighting the clock. Mrs. Barwick insisted her husband Kenneth was just around the corner as she dialed his number. “Get in your truck,” she exclaimed. Minutes later Mr. Barwick appeared with the doors closing behind him, sporting a tie with an American flag design and announcing that he would be voting for Thomas Jefferson.
He then ducked into a booth, cast his ballot and presented his lapel for an I Voted sticker, though refusing to disclose whom he voted for.