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Making history – Election coverage in California

Early risers find long lines

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – Voters wanting to vote early before work found long lines at various poll stations in Eastern Riverside County, poll workers said.

Some turned right around to attempt later in the day.

“I’ll have to take my kids but I will vote today,” said May Lee, a teacher who said she planned to vote for Sen. Barack Obama. She arrived at her polling station at 7:30 a.m. 30 minutes after the polls officially opened.

About two hours later, the poll station at a conference room at the Doral Resort here slowed to a trickle with two poll workers managing two small lines.

Photo by Victor Morales Voter lines are reduced to a trickle at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday after long lines scared away some voters in the morning at this poll station in Cathedral City, Calif.

Riverside County, home to a half a dozen Indian reservations, boasts large republican clusters. The county’s Registrar of Voters officials reported 350,885 republicans and 307,593 democrats registered as of Oct. 28.

But California’s record registration turnout leans toward the democrat party with 44 percent. Republicans represent 31 percent of voters in the state.

Early polls indicating California’s 55 electoral votes will likely go Obama, congressional and state races and propositions are expected to be more competitive. Among them is Measure 8, which would change the California Constitution to eliminate same sex marriage.

Early media reports have California democrats celebrating

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – With more than an hour left until voting precincts close here, democrats were celebrating a presumptive victory for Sen. Barack Obama.

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A lone Elle Kurpiewski, president of the Democrats of the Desert, said she was “done” after working seven straight days to get the Illinois senator and other congressional and state candidates elected.

“Everybody has gone to party,” she said at her headquarters while monitoring the internet for updates.

By 7 p.m., Pacific Time, many news outlets had Obama leading Sen. John MacCain in electoral votes 207 to 95 and winning battleground states like Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Ohio, the latter two won by George W. Bush in 2004.

“I can’t tell you what I am feeling right now,” Kurpiewski said. “Pride,” she added with tears in her eyes.

At the Palm Springs Republican Women Federated headquarters, Val Ogburn and a handful of volunteers were still making calls to voters. Ogburn said they weren’t monitoring news reports until precincts close at 8 p.m. They were concentrating on Congressional and state contests, including state ballot measures.

“Either way we are having a party,” Ogburn said.

Kurpiewski was inspired by the day’s early tally. A long time democrat, she compared Obama to Robert F. Kennedy. “This young man is going to change the world,” she said.

But several key congressional and state contests and ballot measures remain unresolved in California, including measures 8, which would prohibit same sex marriage if passed.

Desert Democrats celebrate Obama win

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – As Sen. Barack Obama moved past Sen. John McCain in electoral votes, the Cahuilla Ballroom at the Indian owned Agua Caliente Casino erupted in jubilation Tuesday night.

About 1,000 Obama supporters packed the ballroom here, one of Riverside County’s most affluent desert cities. Many expressed emotion, citing the historical significance of the country’s first African-American president.

“I am so glad that I got to see it in my lifetime. It’s so surreal that I will have to pinch myself in the morning to know it’s really happening,” said Kathleen Jurasky, a 53-year old African-American from Palm Springs.

In a resounding victory, Obama secured 338 electoral votes to McCain’s 160 as of midnight, Pacific Time. Obama captured at least seven states that had gone to George W. Bush four years ago. They included some with Native American bastions like Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

With 52 percent of California precincts reported, Obama was leading McCain 59 to 39 percent, according the California Secretary of State Web site. In Riverside County, home to a half dozen Indian reservations, that margin was razor thin. It reported Barack leading by 677 votes with 55 percent of the precincts in.

Rolland Goldsmith, 62, of Yucca Valley, Calif., continuously yelled “I love you Barack” throughout the president-elect’s address to the nation being viewed on four giant screens inside the ballroom.

“I just don’t know (why I keep saying that). It comes from the heart. I can’t explain it,” he said.

A buffet of food for Obama supporters was provided by the casino’s owner, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, that cost “several thousands of dollars,” said Alva Johnson, the tribe’s director of public relations.

Area republicans were still celebrating however with several GOP congressional and state candidates in the lead of their democratic opponents as well as a measure to ban same sex marriage in California gaining momentum.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, who was leading her democratic opponent, said some of her Republican colleagues would reject McCain’s call for bipartisanship in the forthcoming Obama Administration and Democratic-controlled congress.

“I have a sense that some of my colleagues will rebel against that. Some will take a hard-line approach. But I have always been a centrist. … that we need to come together to solve our problems,” Bono Mack said at a republican party here.

Bono Mack also said she would “continue to be a strong voice for Indian sovereignty” and pledged to work cooperatively for the benefit of all in her district, if her early lead held up. Bono Mack was instrumental in a water deal earlier this year with the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and the U.S. Department of Interior.