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A polling station at Richmond High. Photo by Angeline Bernabe.

Richmond residents cast votes in divisive election

on November 8, 2016

On a sweltering November day, Richmond voters stood on line to cast their ballots—deciding on divisive races from the national to local levels.

A slow but steady stream of voters trickled in and out of the polls at Booker T. Anderson Community Center on South 47th Street near Carlson Boulevard.

Among the canvassers gathered outside, one held signs for Measure L, the ballot measure to implement rent control in Richmond. Another canvassed for Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA)-backed candidates Melvin Willis and Ben Choi, and a volunteer for Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) canvassed for school board candidate Mister Phillips and city council candidates Cesar Zepeda, Jael Myrick and Uche Uwahemu.

“The community is coming up to vote, which is something I have not seen in the past, so I am really happy and excited,” said Juliet Zamora, a graduate tutor at Peres Elementary School.

The polls at Peres Elementary were noticeably livelier than they’ve been in the past, Zamora said.

“In the morning it was busy,” she said. “We had a lot of turnout, so that is a good thing.”

Across Richmond, most voters seem to be focused on the national election.

Jason Baterina, a 10-year Richmond resident, said he hoped his neighbors would show up to cast their votes for local candidates despite their feelings about the national election.

“I don’t think a lot of people want Trump to win, and I think a lot of people aren’t voting today because they think Hillary’s going to win by a landslide,” he said. “But they should still go out and vote.”

Some voters, however, are paying close attention to the City Council race and the hotly debated rent control measure.

Paula Kristovich, a Richmond resident doing last-minute campaigning for the RPA outside of Washington Elementary School this morning, said she feels “strongly” about Measure L.

“I just personally feel that the cost of housing is a crime, quite frankly,” she said. “And there’s just something wrong with a society where you have parents working multiple jobs and they cannot afford to pay for housing.”

Realtor and Richmond native Zina Hall disagreed.

“I voted no [on the measure] because it doesn’t help the residents like we think it would, and it’s going to deter a bunch of folks from purchasing in Richmond,” she said. “They’re going to go to another city. Big problem.”

Voters also expressed strong opinions about City Council candidates.

Batrina said he cast his vote for friend Cesar Zepeda.

“I think this is his first time actually running for anything, so I just wanted to see somebody that represents me, and I hope he wins,” he said.

Hall said she “went old school” and supported Corky Boozé and Nat Bates.

“The reason I went old school is because they’ve been around Richmond and they’ve seen the changes, so I’m pretty confident in their decisions and where they’re directing everyone,” she said.

Others at the polls voiced support for Jael Myrick, Jim Rogers, Ben Choi and Melvin Willis.

Polling locations will remain open to voters until 8 p.m. tonight.

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