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Bear scare prompts changes, but doesn’t stop Primary Day voters

Posted at 1:02 PM, Jun 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-13 13:02:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginians across the Commonwealth casting their votes in Tuesday’s primary election, workers at one Richmond polling station spent their morning on alert after reports of a bear sighting nearby.

Jane Hazelwood started setting up the polling place at Redd Elementary in south Richmond before 6 a.m.

"I just heard bear," said Hazelwood. “My first thoughts were 'I'm not going to sit at the door today.'"

Richmond Police spent most of the night trying track down the wayward bear that someone reported seeing near Westover Hills Elementary.

While officers said their search turned up nothing, investigators added they had received similar reports in the area for the past three days.

"[Police] said as a precaution we should keep the door shut at all times,” said Hazelwood.

The bear didn’t  stop voters like Peggy Greenly from coming out to cast a ballot.

"Every election I'm here Lord willing," Greenly said. "I try to do my best to vote for my candidate in office."

Virginia's race for governor has drawn national attention.

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is competing against former Virginia congressman Tom Perriello.

On the Republican side, Ed Gillespie is considered the frontrunner by political experts. He is running against Prince William County chairman Corey Stewart and Virginia State Senator Frank Wagner.

Governor Terry McAuliffe, who endorsed Northam, voted early Tuesday morning and encouraged others to come out as well.

"The governor has more say over your everyday life than the president of the United States," McAuliffe said. "We have to run the education system, the roads, the healthcare system, so it's very important that people get out and exercise their constitutional right."

CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said Tuesday’s turnout could be a signal of what's to come in future elections.

"My sense is that we’ll probably see more Democrats today than we are going to see Republicans. That may have to do with the fact that the Democratic race is at least perceived to be closer than the Republican race," he said. "But I think it has something to do with the fact that Donald Trump is now president, the Democrats are a little more energized because they’re energized in opposition."

At Redd Elementary, Hazelwood said they’ve had a smooth run despite the bear sighting.

"Everybody coming in with smiles. Some people don't even know about the bear,” she said.