From a polling place deep inside red territory
When I arrived to vote at my local polling place, the New Life Church on Hwy 280 outside Birmingham, AL, the parking lot was full, about 20 people were voting and about a dozen were in line. It was 4:30 in the afternoon, so it wasn't a prime voting time - people who would vote on the way home hadn't hit yet.
The polling staff said 1200 of the 2100 people registered to vote in my district had already done so. I knew the turnout had been heavy. My landlord had arrived just before the polls opened at 7 a.m., and he told me later that the line had extended out the door and partway around the building. Sounds like at least 50 people. I asked the polling folks if this was more than usual.
"Oh, yes, it's very heavy, very heavy," they said. One added, "We knew it would be." Some had worked previous presidential elections, and said this was the heaviest turnout they'd ever seen - already.
This area of Alabama does not have any heavily contested, high-turnout races or ballot issues. There are several races and issues that some care a lot about, but not ones the public would flock to the polls over. We are electing a senator, but Republican incumbent Jeff Sessions didn't seem to be facing serious competition. Our US representative, Spencer Bachus, ran unopposed. Other state and local races were for commissioners and judges. The ballot issues affecting my county - Shelby - again were not highly volatile.
So the turnout has to be about the presidential election. Shelby County is among the most affluent counties in the state, because the north end of the county abuts Jefferson County and Birmingham. Lots of exclusive subdivisions are nestled in the hills of northern Shelby, and the wealth centered there raises the county's average substantially. But the section I live in is mostly rural, with a few small subdivisions popping up. It is also very Republican.
But Alabama is not a swing state. It's solidly red and no one expects that to change in this election. Why the intense interest in voting in a red state, in a red county, in a very red district?
I suspect the voters see McCain at risk, and they do not like Obama's policies. So they are pouring out to support him. I will be interested to see if this trend extends to the swing states.
A sidenote: After voting, I went to the local Wal-Mart, where the patrons and employees were about equally white and black. I noticed that about half of the white people I saw had on "I voted" stickers. Only one black person did, a well-dressed woman who looked like she was a teacher or some other professional. My sticker had fallen off, so maybe that was true of others. But I thought that was intriguing. Alabama's population has the second highest percentage of black citizens in the US, second only to Mississippi. Are they going out for Obama in unusually high numbers? I don't know.