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Election Day: Excitement and Apathy

November 5, 1996

From the midnight darkness of New Hampshire to a sunny Midwestern morning, Americans crowded into polling places today to celebrate democracy.

Some groused about the choice of candidates. Others criticized empty political rhetoric. But they put aside complaints to exercise their rights.

Among them was Anesti Vangel, a 68-year-old Boston man who shrugged when asked who he picked for president.

``Sometimes I’ve gone into the booth and not voted for anyone,″ he said. ``But I go because I don’t want to lose the privilege.″

As in the past, the celebration began at midnight in two tiny communities nestled in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. At Hart’s Location, 21 residents filed into voting booths in the Notchland Inn’s wood-paneled dining room.

It took them four minutes. The final count, including absentee ballots: Bob Dole 13, President Clinton 12, Ross Perot 4, Libertarian Harry Browne 2.

Across the mountains, in Dixville Notch, the ritual was repeated: Dole 18, Clinton 8, Perot 1, Browne 1.

The satisfaction of voting first wasn’t enough for Bob Tiedeman, a long-haul trucker from Hart’s Location.

``I just wish there were somebody running who was worth it all,″ said Tiedeman, who wouldn’t say who got his vote.

But shortly before 7 a.m., as a line formed down the steps of the red-brick Eliot School in Boston’s North End, Megan Tilles hugged her 8-month-old daughter, Mackenzie, against the early morning chill and said: ``There’s got to be some candidate you like in any election.″

As the sun rose, the celebration continued.

At the Donald J. Adams School in Northfield, N.J., a bedroom community near Atlantic City, John Malayter, 33, and his 5-year-old daughter, Colleen, crunched across the leaf-covered lawn to vote.

Malayter let his daughter pull the lever for Dole.

``After four years of hearing about Whitewater and that other crap, I’m tired of hearing it. They’re both windbags but Dole’s the lesser of two evils,″ Malayter said.

In Zebulon, Ky., Hugh Smith, a federal mine inspector, arrived early to vote in the basement of a funeral home. While he picked Clinton, he hoped for a balance of Republicans in Congress.

``I do not particularly want the Democratic party to go back to the way it was,″ he said. ``Very frankly I think ’94 was good for the Democratic party. There are some people who just had to go.″

At the Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, Fla., 82-year-old John Licitra came out in overcast, shirt-sleeve weather to vote for Perot. He said his pick was a vote for his four children and seven grandchildren.

``I’ve lost my wife. My days are numbered,″ Licitra said. ``I want to vote for the future.″

Adrian Ford, a 28-year-old unemployed auto repairman from Chicago’s impoverished West Side, also was thinking about the future when he voted for Clinton at the Henry Horner public housing complex a few blocks from the site of this summer’s Democratic National Convention.

``I hope he will make things better _ creating more jobs for us and making a better future for us,″ Ford said.

Volunteers and election officials kept an eye on the weather. Poll judges in Minnesota were undaunted by a forecast of snow. Veterans knew to bring snow shovels.

In St. Cloud, 30 people lined up in the fog at 6:55 a.m. to vote at the Holy Spirit Church as election judges scurried around inside with last-minute preparations.

Brian Morrison, 35, was first in line to vote and the first out the door. He said he wasn’t that excited to vote. He just wanted to get to work on time.

At the Oasis of Love Church in Albuquerque, N.M., Laura Humelsine, 43, and her daughter Sandra, 18, braved a morning chill to vote together for the first time. Both said they were defying analysts who said the results were a foregone conclusion.

Said Laura Humelsine: ``At least we need to make our voices heard.″

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