‘Be Mindful of The World Around You’ : Floyd Residents Come Out to Vote

Ann Shank was at the polls this morning around 9:30 a.m., volunteering as a "greeter" on behalf of the Floyd County Democratic Party. She was handing out sample ballots with the party's preferred candidates selected. She said she was one of three volunteers at the precinct. The other two were legal observers. Photo by Ashley Spinks Dugan.

By Ashley Spinks Dugan

November 3, 2020

Some families voted together for the first time, others just felt it was their civic duty.

FLOYD- The driveway leading up to Floyd County High School, one of five voting locations in the rural Southwest Virginian county, is lined with dozens of campaign signs, but the precinct seems quiet. 

A few volunteers from the Floyd County Democratic Party are on site today to act as “greeters” and legal observers. Graham Mitchell said he was asked to look out for any form of voter intimidation, spreading of misinformation, or folks being belligerent this morning. But so far: “everything’s been going quietly,” he said, which is what he expects from the “good, kind folks” of Floyd.

Mitchell, a professor of psychology and religion at New River Community College, said he was motivated to volunteer with Democrats at the polls because, “I really do believe that we need to make sure everyone has the opportunity and freedom to vote with no obstacles.”

“If anyone’s restricted from voting, all our freedoms are at stake,” he added.

Voters were fairly unanimous in their summation of the election: they felt it was critically important, but also felt relatively ambivalent about their choices.

Tracey Miller brought her young daughter with her to the polls “so that she learns how important it is.” But overall, “this was the hardest year of all for me to vote. I didn’t like either choice.”

Jason Underwood, who was likewise accompanied by his daughters Annikah and Willah, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s our civic duty to vote and make our voice heard,” Underwood said.

But his enthusiasm was muted with respect to the actual ballot.

“To be blunt: You’ve got to make the best of the choices in front of you. Most of us wish there were other choices,” he said.

The young Underwoods were certainly decked out for Election Day- one was even wearing a dress with a sparkly American flag on it, and both had masks.

'Be Mindful of The World Around You' : Floyd Residents Come Out to Vote
The entire Belshan family turned out to vote at Floyd County High School around 10 am Pictured are Sarah 18 and Abi 20 with their parents Both girls were voting in a Presidential election for the first time

Voting together for the first time

Around 10 a.m., Floyd County Electoral Board Secretary Bob Smith made an appearance at the polling location. He said some precincts had already reported running out of cleaning supplies, and he was there to assess poll workers’ needs. 

The entire Belshan family headed to the polls together in Floyd–and three of the five were voting in their first Presidential election. Abi, 20, said she would have showed up even without her parents’ encouragement.

“I know how important it is,” she said. With regard to issues that motivate her, she said, “I’m kind of in-between both parties, but overall, I leaned more to one side.”

Her sister Sarah is 18, and brother Matt is 21. He said he missed eligibility for the last Presidential election by less than a week. The eldest Belshan, their father, got choked up talking about the importance of voting.

“This is a great country,” he said, and added that he raised his children to “be mindful of the world around them.”

The privilege of voting, he said, can’t be taken for granted.

‘I like engaging with this’

The elementary school precinct in Willis, in a slightly more rural area of the county about 10 miles outside town, was surprisingly a little busier than the high school. The county offered curbside voting and Floyd County Democrats observed the process.

No other electioneering occured at either location. 

Democratic greeter Kelly Weeks said the drive-through option had been especially popular with voters. 

Unlike the slightly more taciturn voters in town, Donna Cole and Carrie Gault were quick to offer their take on the election. They emerged from the school with their “I Voted” stickers proudly displayed on the front of their masks. Asked what brought them out today, Cole said Election Day was a “ceremonial thing.”

“We decided to vote in person because I like engaging with this,” she said. She added the pair wanted the extra assurance that their votes would be properly counted. Cole said the polling place was “very organized” and the process “super fast.” Her partner Gault said ultimately, “We’re here to get Donald Trump out of office.”

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