The polling place workers applauded from behind their table at West Sacramento City Hall, and Vidya Ram broke out a shy smile.
Ram, 68, is a native of Fiji and has been a United States citizen for about a year and a half.
On Tuesday, Ram voted for the first time.
Her vote in West Sacramento came as California turnout was expected to be at an all-time low for a general election, apathy taking hold among voters unimpressed by the slate of statewide office races and propositions.
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But Ram’s vote was an offer of thanks to a country that now calls her one of its own. She said she emigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago, wending through the long, difficult road to citizenship. Ram said she registered to vote the same day she became a citizen.
Today, Ram said she is voting “for the good of the United States. I’m very happy, very safe here and I want the United States to be safe, too.”
Her friend Rebecca Robards, 71, drove her to the polls.
“I’ve got the best friend,” Ram said. “I’m a very lucky lady.”
Robards said she received a call earlier Tuesday from Ram that she planned to cast her first ballot on U.S. soil.
“I’ll pick you up at 3 p.m.,” Robards said she told Ram. “It’s a good day. I’m so proud of her right now.”
It was a touching break in what poll workers said was a strange and unusually busy day at the City Hall polling place despite low expectations for turnout statewide.
With races for mayor and City Council, “We’ve been steady all day,” said poll worker Kathy Madison.
Madison’s son, Adam Stewart, now 16 and already working his sixth election, counted signatures to prove his mother’s point.
“We have 114 regular and 26 provisional ballots, and we still have four hours left,” he said at 4 p.m.
A fire alarm chased everyone out into the parking lot earlier Tuesday. And for a brief period, petitioners outside City Hall called on voters to put a random candidate on the next presidential ballot before giving up their nascent effort, Madison said.
“I’ve done elections for 27 years and this has been the strangest election,” Madison said.
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.