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What were the highs and lows of your election coverage?

Like many of you, I had a long election day, even though I didn’t have to clock in until 12 noon. In fact, I actually started my day two hours earlier so that I could visit voting centers in Washington, D.C., to get quotes from voters exiting the polls.

First, I stopped at the Colombia Heights Rec Center, which had been one of the busiest polling stations for the District’s early voting plan. Very quickly I discovered there were no lines and most of the people outside the center were there to hand out campaign literature.

Two women watch the election returns on a large screen in McPherson Square Park in Washington, DC.

I waited for 15 minutes and grabbed the first person to exit the polls and asked a few questions. He was quite happy to talk, but then I learned he was a European photographer who was there to cover the election. He did mention that the polling officials were very helpful, so I went inside and interviewed the person in charge.

That turned out to be a smart move, as I got a lot of good information about how the day’s slow and steady pace was outstripped by the number of people who showed up during the early voting period. This gave me a very different angle to cover the election.

I then went to Capital One Arena, which had been set up as a high-traffic polling center. Just like the Columbia Heights polls, there weren’t a lot of people waiting to vote. Instead, the sidewalk was filled with TV journalists, who were interviewing a trio of professional basketball players about why it was important to vote. I snuck in and interviewed each of them. I also talked to one of the representatives from World Central Kitchen, which was handing out food to hungry voters.

My next move was to head back home to Fairfax, Virginia, to write up a story from my notes, by I got diverted at the entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and had to take an alternate route home. I later found out that police had closed the bridge to allow President Trump’s motorcade through so he could visit his campaign headquarters in Arlington.

Back home, I wrote up my first election story of the day, before heading off to Fairfax High School to interview voters coming out of the precinct there.

Not a lot is going on at the polling center in Columbia Heights Tuesday morning.

Fairfax City is usually not part of my beat, but the three Patch reporters who cover Northern Virginia divided up the coverage so that we can grab some quotes at the polls close to our homes. Mark Hand, who covers Fairfax City for Patch, had already visited some precincts in Arlington County, where he lives, to get quotes for my local coverage.

After a quick stop at home to post the Fairfax City material, I drove up to Reston and Herndon to talk to voters. I got my last quote about an hour before the polls closed, headed home to update my election coverage for those communities with fresh quotes, and grabbed some dinner.

Metropolitan Police Department officers form a line with their bikes to separate protesters near Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C.

In the evening, my son and I traveled into the District for the DC Watch Party at McPherson Square. Crowds had shown up to watch election returns on a jumbotron TV, dance to music, and get their photo taken in front of a large inflatable chicken with Donald Trump’s hair. It being D.C., where marijuana is legal, the air was filled with the skunkiest weed smell you could imagine.

Once I’d grabbed some quotes and taken a bunch of photos, my son and I wandered over to Black Lives Matter Plaza a block away to see what was going on there. Before we arrived, though, about 20 Metropolitan Police Department officers swept past us on bicycles and descended on a crowd of protesters. Someone was causing a disturbance.

A throng of protesters with their cellphones out circled the police, who were shouting at them to move back. I pulled my phone out as well and began taking photos from within the crowd. But there were too many people shoving against each other to get a clear shot or sense of what was going on.

I dropped back and found my son taking photos nearby. As I turned around, I discovered about 30 other police officers had formed up about 10 yards behind us. 

“Holy shit,” I said, realizing we were standing between them and the crowd. “We should move.”

Metropolitan Police Department officers apprehend a man causing a disturbance at Black Lives Matter Plaza, while a crowd of protesters shout at them and use their phones to record the incident.

My son and I walked over behind a concrete barricade where several TV news crews had set up their cameras. Everybody looked anxious. Above, a helicopter had started circling the block, shining a beam of light onto the street. The police eventually dragged a man away, as the crowd berated them.

I took a few more photos, including one of the White House seen through the crowds and police. We left, taking a Metro train out to the station where my son had parked his car.

Back home, I filed my final story of the day and went to bed around 1:15 a.m. with a wicked headache.

What was your election day like? Let us know. We may feature your story in an upcoming episode of It’s All Journalism. Send your story to: editor@itsalljournalism.com. This article first appeared as a feature in the It’s All Journalism newsletter. Signup here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

Allison Taylor-Levine

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