EAST BOSTON, Mass.–The scene outside Curtis Guild Elementary School on election day was very similar to outside Fenway Park after a Red Sox game. Leyden Street was flooded with people, walking in every direction and bumping into each other often. The placement of the school could not make for a more interesting atmosphere, located on a side street directly in the heart of Orient Heights, East Boston.The street is narrow, putting the school within 30 feet of the houses in the neighborhood. Residents have no choice but to deal with loud groups of supporters from both parties. Voters held signs encouraging others to vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain.
The usual neighborhood noise of birds and school buses at 8 a.m. was replaced with chants for Barack Obama. This tiny neighborhood suddenly had hundreds of voters, who after casting their ballot, did not go home. Local residents knew what to expect, they’ve been through this chaos many times.
Long time Leyden Street resident Norma Iovanna, a 55-year-old Obama supporter, knew how to prepare for the influx of voters at Curtis Guild School. “Every election day I wake up extra early, preparing for a very loud day. You need to pour yourself a large cup of coffee and don’t move your car from your parking spot, because you won’t get it back for the rest of the day. Things are different around here, after people vote they don’t go home, they will stay and show support for either McCain or Obama. I guess they believe they can change a few minds at the last second.”
The line to vote is long, stretching half a block at its biggest point. East Boston residents keep themselves busy by catching up with old friends while waiting in line, often sharing political views. Lois Cochrane, a lifelong Republican and John McCain supporter, shared her thoughts about the lines outside the school. “It’s not as bad as it looks. East Boston is such a small town, you never know who you’re going to bump into in line. That’s what makes it fun, catching up with old friends and exchanging stories. Then when you reach the front of the line, you start talking about who you’re voting for.”
With all the focus on the lines, loud chants, and angry neighbors, many forget they’re voting at a school that is currently in session. Around 2 p.m., a path is cleared for school buses to park in front of the school and pick up students. Hundreds of future voters pour out the front doors of the school and onto yellow school buses. The students are stunned by the activity at their tiny school.
Principal Simon Ho explained the affect that voting at Curtis Guild had on his students. “We explain to the students how important it is to vote and that we are fortunate to have the process done at our school. When they see all the voters and signs, they realize that it’s an exciting time in our neighborhood. These students know more about politics than you would think, getting their opinions from their parents and sharing them in class.” When asked what candidate the majority of the students seem to support, Ho replied, “Absolutely Obama, not even close.”
East Boston is a very political city that houses many races and opinions on the election. Curtis Guild is the setting for an entertaining voting location, that includes passionate supporters for both Democrat and Republican parties. One could understand why young adults are coming out to vote in record numbers. Voting at Curtis Guild is not only fun and exciting, but you can meet many interesting people while you’re there. As long as you don’t steal a resident’s parking spot, locals are more than happy to let you spend the day soaking in the political atmosphere.