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With big issues at stake, Richmond heads to the polls

on November 6, 2018

Spurred by competitive local races and important ballot initiatives, Richmond voters flocked to the polls in what could be record-breaking numbers.

We’ll be updating this story throughout the evening with more photos, voter testimonies and news stories.

Rafik Algzali walks to vote at the Community Senior Citizens Center on Tuesday. Algzali voted for the first time in 1998 after he became a citizen of the U.S. (Photo via Meiying Wu)

Richmond Votes

On Tuesday morning at North Richmond’s Shield-Reeds Community Center, poll workers were excited about the turnout. By 9:30 a.m., they had seen eight people show up at the polls. During the June primary, it took all day for them to get that many voters.

Those voting were eager to share why they were at the polls. Jerry, a 64-year-old Richmond resident who didn’t want to disclose his last name, said he grew up in the South and remembers when black people like himself could not vote. After voting earlier that morning near Hilltop Mall, he was volunteering his time as a poll worker at the Shield-Reeds Community Center.

At Washington Elementary School inPoint Richmond, poll workers estimated that more than 300 people had voted by 11 a.m.

Some last-minute vote-by-mail residents lingered outside the school’s walls, taking about 20 minutes to fill in their ballots before dropping them off at the polling place.

Debbie Bayer, 69, during the 2018 midterm elections. Photo via Wesaam Al-Badry

Debbie Bayer, 69, said she has voted in every election since she was 21, but found this election special because she saw so many young people at the polls — motivated, she thought, by the importance of this election on the local and national level.

“Voting is expressing which side you are on,” she said.

Voters sit at the polls in Marina Bay. Photo via Wesaam Al-Badry. 

Just after 1:30 p.m., at Brickyard Landing in Marina Bay, a handful of voters walked in, cheerfully passing the boats bobbing in the water nearby. Inside, some spent as long as 45 minutes carefully poring over their ballots.

As voters fed their ballots into the black voting machine, election official Gary Minor offered this advice: “One at a time,” he said. “It’s slow but accurate.”

About the same time across town at the Richmond Senior Citizen Center, Najainee Coutee, 24, was voting for the first time in six years.

The first and only other time she voted was in 2012, when she was driven to the polls by a desire to reelect then-President Barack Obama.

Najainee Coutee, 24, voted for the first time in six years in Tuesday’s election. Photo via Meiying Wu.

Coutee said she was voting, “to make a difference.”

“It’s a lot going on,” she said. “The rent and living situation out here, it’s ridiculous.”

Right now, she’s working to make ends meet, thinking about going back to school and struggling to find housing.

“Even for me, it’s hard to find just a one-bedroom for me and my little one,” said Coutee, who is the mother of a 9-month-old child.

Robert Neuman shows off his sash, decorated with pins from every presidential election in which he’s voted or served as an inspector. Photo via Wesaam Al-Badry.

At DeJean High School, election official Robert Nauman was running around in a white hat with red and blue lace. A sash, decorated with pins from the presidential elections in which he’s voted and been an inspector, was draped across his chest.

“It’s been very busy all day”, he said. “We’ve added extra polling places, people are voting all over. Even families come together.”

Voting, he said, is sacred.

Karen Zaragoza, 58, who has purple streaks in her hair and glittery polish on her nails, said she was voting because, “I think Richmond needs to be overhauled.” 

“I never vote ahead of time because I like coming here, and I like coming away with my sticker,” she said.

She left with three “I voted” stickers — one for herself and two for each of her elderly parents, whose ballots she dropped off. 

Karen Zaragoza, 58, prefers to vote in person instead of ahead of the elections. Photo via Meiying Wu.

“My father is in failing health so it will probably be his last big time for voting,” she said. 

Voting, “is the most important thing we do here on this Earth,” she said, especially for women. “We weren’t just handed the right to vote. We had to fight for it.”

But there’s a different feel to this year’s election, she said.

“This feels like the most important election ever.”

More #RichmondVotes election coverage: 

  • Contra Costa County could break its record for voter turnout this year. Early estimates from election officials say the turnout is on par with numbers seen in the 2016 election. Our report has more details.
  • Formerly incarcerated people in Richmond, many voting for the first time, helped propel Richmond’s tally. Here’s our story about the get-out-the-vote effort.
  • The future of Richmond could be influenced by the outcome of the mayoral race between incumbent Tom Butt and Vice Mayor Melvin Willis. Both candidates are known for their liberal platforms but differ considerably in their goals. For more details on both candidates, check out our story: The mayoral race: the traditional liberal versus the young progressives.
  • Voters were also deciding the hard-fought race between Jovanka Beckles and Buffy Wicks for California’s 15th Assembly district. The race was one of the most expensive in the state. Our report breaks down how four times as much money was spent supporting the Wicks campaign, propelled by out-of-state donors, political action committees and corporate executives.
  • Voters were keenly interested in the question of how to vote on Proposition 10.  If passed, it would mean California cities would be able to expand rent control. It would repeal the current rent control law, the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which doesn’t allow cities to impose rent control on units or single-family homes built after February 1995. Our story details how this could impact Richmond’s communities. The debate over rent control: What does Richmond need?

People of Richmond

For more from People of Richmond, check out our story here

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