Can’t we all just get along? Political foes can be friends

By on November 9, 2016

On Election Day outside the Lititz Fire Hall, poll watchers Cathy Gelatka, Kim Conrad, and Linda Galway were surrounded by dozens of campaign signs.

The three women happen to be friends, even though Gelatka was there for the Democratic party and Conrad and Galway for the Republicans. Despite all the signage, Gelatka noted that they were chatting about anything but politics, such as their children, families, and the gorgeous weather.

“We are just ignoring the elephant in the room,” said Galway, smiling.

Or in Gelatka’s case, the donkey.

They all laughed.

In a contentious presidential election pitting Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, the poll watchers were not about to let politics get in the way. All three women noted that voter turnout had been quite high, as expected. Gelatka reported that people were lined up at soon as the polls opened at 7 a.m. A few people were there as early as 6:30.

The story was the same across town at Lititz United Methodist Church. By 9 a.m., there had been 204 voters. Usually there are around 200 voters, total.

“This is a historic election, and a lot is at stake,” said Democratic poll watcher Barry Erb.

Erb, a Vietnam veteran, is concerned about having a president with international experience who will be a stable force in the world.

Because of the polarizing views from each side, and the angry rhetoric, Erb said, “This election has changed me permanently.”

Still, he and his Republican counterpart, Mary-Lynn Lavender, did what the presidential candidates were not always able to do. They got along.

Lavender pointed out that her number one issue was abortion and protecting the lives of the unborn.

“Trump is pro-life and he stands up for the middle class,” she said.

Inside the polling station, voter Steve Leed said he hasn’t been thrilled with either of the mainstream options, so he was going with a lesser-known alternative, Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

“As far as I am concerned, voting is one of the few freedoms we have in this country,” he said. “Unfortunately, neither of the candidates are beloved, so I have chosen to vote Green.”

Anita Lipkowski was volunteering at the poll, scanning paper ballots. She was amazed by the number of new faces coming through the door.

“I have been doing this for 10 years, and I am seeing people here that I have never seen before,” she said.

Many of the voters at the church were opting for paper ballots instead of the electronic machines, which was the case at most of the other Lititz Borough polling places.

“It’s just much easier and faster,” explained Dave Anderson, judge of elections at the Lititz Public Library. He’s been doing it for 16 years.

Outside the library, Democratic poll watcher Brad Bergman and his Republican counterpart Dennis Stuckey were also on friendly terms. They talked with voters who had questions about candidates, or about the Pennsylvania retirement age for judges, which was a question on the ballot.

“There were at least 50 people lined up here first thing in the morning,” said Stuckey.

At Moravian Manor retirement community, voter turnout exceeded expectations. There were 100 voters in the first hour, noted judge Marion Chubb. Paper ballots were more popular, especially with the Manor residents who were able to vote by just walking or wheeling down the hall. There were 11 stations for paper ballots and just one electronic machine.

“It’s important that we elect the right president. I voted straight ticket. And it was nice to just come down the hall,” said resident Marian Spalding.

The Republican poll watcher at this location was fittingly-named Roger Trump, and he was 100 percent behind Donald. The local Trump’s most critical issues were abortion and Supreme Court justices.

Voters Karl and Erika Bastian of Moravian Manor were especially interested in this election, and they were pleased to see the good turnout.

“People in this country do not vote as often as they should,” said Erika. “It is part of being an American.”

Bastian immigrated from Germany when she was 27, and became a U.S. citizen five years later. She has been concerned about the hostility and nationalism of the 2016 campaign. As a young girl in Germany during World War II, she saw first-hand the dangers of targeting certain groups of people.

“There is too much at stake to not vote,” she said.

Over at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, Netsai Patricia Tapfuma and her two daughters Tanaka and Savannah stopped by the poll right after school.

Tapfuma immigrated to the United States from Zimbabwe and became a citizen five years ago. For her, the issue of immigration topped her reasons to vote.

“I am voting so that my voice is heard,” she said. “And for my children’s future.”

Republican poll watcher Lincoln Hockenbrough felt that transgender restrooms and gay marriage were important issues, while Democratic poll watcher Eleanor Nuffort had a longer list that included the environment, education, women’s rights, healthcare, and immigration.

St. Luke’s was far busier than usual, with more than 400 voters by 3 p.m., and that was the case everywhere.

“We have had a big turnout here,” said Gladys Crowl, precinct chairperson at the Luther Acres polling site. “It was 473 by 3:30 p.m. At 7 a.m., there were about 20 people lined up to vote.”

At 90, Crowl has always voted. It’s a right that should be taken seriously, she said.

“We may not always agree on issues,” said Republican poll watcher Janice Hill, who chatted with Democratic poll watcher Celine Klaus. “But we agree that every vote is important.”

Laura Knowles is a local freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story ideas at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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