Organizing Theory & Artistry

Live from the Battleground: Virginia on Election Eve

Yesterday afternoon I took my children out on an election adventure to scout election signs along the main routes in Fredericksburg.  I explained that there were two candidates for president, Mitt Romney and President Obama and that we were going to try to find signs for each candidate.

Virginia’s reputation as a battleground state is well-deserved.  People used to say that the entire state was Republican except for northern Virginia (the parts closest to Washington, D.C.) where it is primarily Democratic.  That is still pretty much true but now it seems to be fairer to say that many of the cities tend to be Democratic and the more rural areas tend to be Republican.  Since we live in a rur-burb, in general our area leans Republican but seems to increase in Democrats every year.

You can see this demographic mix as you drive along the Fredericksburg roadways.  For example, on one side, we have Chik-fil-A offering to cater your election party

and on the other side we have road construction going on financed by federal stimulus dollars.

In general, most Fredericksburg residents are pretty low-key when it comes to displaying their politics.  We have a lot of military and government employees who probably need to be apolitical when it comes to their jobs.  So for the most part, the political signs in our area are very small yard signs, like the ones below.

But, it would not be that interesting to report on those signs.  So I wanted to give you a small scrapbook of the more extreme signs.

In our area, the Romney signs are more numerous and physically larger than the Obama signs. The Romney campaign seems to have many variations in its signage.  Some are simple “Vote Romney-Ryan” types of signs, like the ones below.

After seeing all these signs, my children complained, “Mom, there are so many Mitt Romney signs.  Isn’t anyone voting for President Obama?”

There are a few large Obama signs as well, like the ones below, but they are harder to spot.

Where the Romney campaign really distinguishes itself in our area, however, is in the campaign signs that give a reason for voting Romney-Ryan.  This seems to be a tradition for Republican voters in our area.  They want you to know why they are voting Republican.  Many people who own large acreage lots put more than one of these signs up, sometimes 4 or 5 in a row as you drive down the road.  Here are a few of the interesting examples:

Sorry for the poor photo. The sign says: "Want $2 Gasoline? Want a future for your kids? Vote Romney Ryan"

Some of the Romney/Republican signage even ventures into the negative campaigning territory.  On the one hand, some people might feel more confident with someone who plays tough and is very aggressive.  On the other hand, you risk alienating independent or undecided voters.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The unfortunate thing about this sign's message is that one way to interpret it is: "You clearly weren't thinking if you voted for Obama in 2008."
This one is just outright hostile.

For our last campaign tour stop, we drove past the campaign headquarters for the Obama campaign.  En route, however, we were very surprised to discover that the Romney campaign had also set up an office just about 50 yards from the Obama office in the same shopping center!  I don’t recall seeing the Romney office before so I imagine it must have sprung up in the last few months.  It is very interesting to me that they would choose to be so close to each other.

It might take you 3 minutes to walk from one campaign's Fredericksburg headquarters to the other.
Romney-Ryan campaign HQ, between the scrapbooking store and a veterinary clinic.
Obama HQ, between a nail salon and a spa.

So, the gloves are off!  With the latest polls indicating the candidates are statistically even in our state, it is going to be a long and interesting election night.  The polls were very busy this morning.  I always bring my children with me to vote so they understand that voting is very important.

There are new voting identification laws in effect in Virginia this year but fortunately I didn’t see anyone turned away because of them.  There was some sort of issue with one of the voting machines while I was waiting in line to vote but the efficient poll workers just redirected voters to the remaining machines that were working reliably.

Remember to vote!  The polls close in Virginia in just about 3.5 hours.  Google has a terrific election polling station finder.  It was even linked to by the Virginia State Board of Elections.  If you are watching the election returns tonight with children (or need a way to keep yourself entertained), The Washington Post has provided a handy coloring map with all the states and their electoral college voting counts as well as other educational activities.