Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. update:
After a close race Tuesday, Donald Trump took the United States presidency with 276 Electoral Votes.
And not only did Trump win the nation – he won Virginia Beach.
The Virginia Department of Elections reported more than 173,000 Virginia Beach voters at the polls, with nearly 49 percent voting for Trump.
Trump beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by about 4 percent in Virginia Beach, taking home more than 84,000 votes with 98 of 99 precincts reporting around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday Clinton earned more than 76,700 votes in VDOE reported.
Tuesday, 6 p.m. update:
As of 6 p.m., nearly 152,000 Virginia Beach residents — 49 percent of registered voters — have cast their votes across the city’s 98 precincts. 32,000 absentee votes were also submitted earlier this month.
At the Discovery Church polling place, Megan Boyd was less than enthused about her choices.
“This election just doesn’t have me excited,” Boyd said. “I was excited to vote in past elections, but I only came out today because it was my civic duty.”
Ryan Brown, a military veteran who was with Boyd, explained why he chose not to vote.
“I have never voted. During previous elections, I was in the military and had no opportunity to fully understand the political climate,” he said. “I don’t want to use my first vote to choose between the lesser of two evils.”
The first thing Virginia Beach voters casting their ballot at Galilee Episcopal Church may have noticed is the bright orange 1964 Ford Mustang in parking lot. Jazz music roared from a small yellow boom box atop the car’s hood, which was also decorated with flowers, a scarecrow and a giant sign that reads “Vote no light rail.”
“The car is driven on a daily basis, believe it or not,” said owner John Maragon. “I can get in this car, drive from here to Norfolk and can get about three to five motorists who will pass me and ‘toot toot.'”
Maragon said he arrived in the Mustang at 5:30 a.m. and knew it would be an attraction. Some people passing it from their cars to the polls clap for it and snap pictures. One person even asked if the car was a raffle prize, to which Maragon responded “I’ll take you on a moonlight cruise if you vote.”
Even people voting in favor of light rail have maintained decorum throughout the day, Maragon said. “We’re friendly rivals.”
Following the election, Virginia Beach resident Rowena Mallari hopes to see more opportunities for immigrants.
“I moved here in 1988” she said. “Moving forward, I hope we have a better economic situation and more available jobs.”
Though she was happy with Mayor Sessoms’ leadership in Virginia Beach, she found it difficult to choose a presidential candidate.
“Trump and Clinton just look the same to me,” she said. “But my son advised me to vote for Clinton. We still have family overseas and I think she is more open to immigration.”
Beau Branch, 21, waited in line around 9:15 a.m. to vote at the Lambert’s Point Community Center in Norfolk.
The Old Dominion University engineering student, who identifies himself as a Libertarian, said he cast his ballot for third-party candidate Gary Johnson.
“It’s a far shot,” he said, adding that while he didn’t want to vote for Donald Trump, he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Hillary Clinton either.
“I’m pretty confident either would do a terrible job,” Branch said. “But I still have some hope for the Republican Party.”
Rich Pickens, a local pastor from New Day Church, also shared his selections for the ballot.
“I’m Trump all the way,” he said. “I say that proudly, not reluctantly.”
“I’m also supporting city council candidates who are against the light rail. I don’t trust the information currently being used to push this project through,” Pickens said. “I would like to see some transportation projects done, but with more of a focus on transporting our military rather than sending people to malls.”
Donna Vidallon, a local business owner, shared similar concerns about the light rail.
“I’m not against the light rail, but I voted against it,” she said. “I’m an environmentalist and I have the heart for it, but Hurricane Matthew shined a light on infrastructure issues that need to be addressed first.”
William Smith, 72, sat outside of the voting precinct at Kempsville Church of Christ with an anti-light rail poster beside him.
Smith, a 45-year Virginia Beach resident, is against the extension of the light rail into Virginia Beach because he believes the project costs too much and won’t be effective as a means of public transportation.
“What Norfolk has isn’t working. It’s not bringing economic development. Everything they say it’s going to do, it’s not doing,” Smith said. “It’s money down the drain.”
Smith added that he would be in favor of spending money to expand Virginia Beach’s bus system to make public transportation readily available to those who need it.
“Buses do a better job,” Smith said. “A better bus system is the answer. You could move it around as the neighborhoods change.”
Allan Carpenter, 85, cast his ballot in Norfolk before heading out to Kempsville Church of Christ to campaign for the expansion of the light rail into Virginia Beach.
Carpenter, who worked in surface transportation for more than 50 years, said he supports the light rail expansion because he believes it is the first step towards unifying public transportation in Hampton Roads.
“You have a tree and branches,” Carpenter said. “The light rail has to be the trunk.”
Carpenter believes all of Hampton Roads’ cities should work together to connect the light rail and public bus systems so residents can connect with businesses across the region.
He also said the light rail is an important transportation feature for people who cannot drive due to circumstances and age.
“There are a lot of people out there who shouldn’t be driving, and I’m going to be joining that group very soon,” Carpenter said. “There’s a place for light rail.”
Pohl may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org