WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of voters are heading to the polls across the DMV during the region's early voting period and some are experiencing the right to vote for the first time. If you hear cheering at the local polling center this week, don't be surprised.
In Montgomery County, poll workers have made it a tradition to cheer on first-time voters who enter their voting centers.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, the community empowerment public information officer of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said first-time voters are often taken by surprise when they become the center of attention.
“I think the voters are pleased and embarrassed but then you can see that pride,” he said.
Zelaya said poll workers cheer because they take the act of voting seriously.
“A lot of sacrifices have taken place to afford an individual the right to vote,” he said. “And I think by acknowledging the fact that they have stepped forth to register to participate in the franchise should be acknowledged.”
First-time voters are not the only people who will get a round of applause inside Montgomery County voting centers. Zelaya said locals who take advantage of Maryland’s same-day voter registration rules are recognized as well.
“And once you're registered to vote, we, too, will clap for you,” he said.
However, Montgomery County is not the only local jurisdiction where you can hear jubilation inside a polling place.
In Virginia, Arlington County has been cheering on first-time voters for years, according to Linda Lindberg, special assistant to the director of elections and Arlington County electoral board.
“Seeing the enthusiasm of our voters, especially the thrill of a first-time voter, really energizes us and validates what we do,” she said. “First-time voters, whether they are 18-year-olds, newly-naturalized citizens, or someone who has for whatever reasons never voter before, are special, and we cheer to encourage them to continue to participate in the process of democracy.”