Historic Election Day at War Memorial Gym

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The line trailed out the War Memorial Gym door. Students sat on the ground and outside to fill out their ballots. Ballot boxes overflowed from beneath the registration table. According to a poll worker who has worked during the past 10 elections, “this was the largest, most exciting and most different turnout [I have ever seen].” The turnout at USF was larger than that of the 2016 presidential election, he said.

While a majority of the students who stopped in War Memorial Gym were dropping off mail-in ballots, the ballot counter indicated that 230 students had voted on-site for the 2018 midterm elections by the end of the night.

Freshman Jade Siphomsay, who was voting for the first time, said she took about two hours to watch videos, read the pamphlet and fill out her ballot. She voted by mail, so she was able to fill out her ballot in her dorm and walk to War Memorial Gym to drop it off. She said she wanted to help make the right political changes.

“I am voting because I am not happy with the current administration,” Siphomsay said. “It took so much for women to be able to vote. As the new generation, it is my duty to leave a legacy and vote, and make changes in my country and state. We all live here. It is our civic duty. The country is supposed to be run by the people.”

Most USF students who voted did so at War Memorial Gym, according to the poll worker, making it one of the busiest precincts in the Bay Area. This meant some voters who live off campus voted at USF instead of at their designated precinct.

USF Votes, a student-led organization that was created to encourage people to register and vote, hosted a viewing party in the University Center for people to watch the national and local results roll in.

Sophomore Amaya Fox said she was looking forward to watching the results. She volunteers for USF Votes, and this election was her second time voting. Fox said it is important for people to have their say in politics, which is why she thinks people should go out and vote.

“It is a good way to express any angst or anger about what is going on, and it puts your voice into the conversation,” Fox said. “It is a chance to represent your values. What we’re voting on influences everyone’s daily lives.”

USF Votes has spent the past few months registering students to vote, and on election day, their total number of registered voters had reached 3,600 students. At least three races in San Francisco were decided by fewer than 3,600 votes, including the Board of Supervisors elections in districts 2, 4 and 10.

“I didn’t vote the last election and I regretted it,” junior Megan Cantwell said. This was her first time voting, and she said she now believes it needs to be a priority. “Coming to San Francisco has really informed me and encouraged me to vote. It is important to vote for what you believe in where you live so you can feel [like you are] a part of something,” she said.

Within the last eight years, millennials have repeatedly had the lowest turnout rate during elections. In 2012, those aged 18-29 made up only 19 percent of the electorate, according to a Pew analysis. The analysis also found that during the last presidential election, only 46 percent of registered millennials voted.

While the final numbers won’t be determined for some time, voter turnout is projected to have surpassed the past few midterm elections. Approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014, according to estimates by the New York Times.

Two Bay Area counties saw historic highs in midterm voting turnout, according to officials in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa counties and Sacramento. In Contra Costa and San Mateo counties, election officials have confirmed that the number of registered voters in their areas has reached historic highs.

Junior Elizabeth Rosenboom voted absentee in Utah’s election this year. While her first time voting was the 2016 presidential election, that experience further motivated her to vote and promote voting.

“When I first voted, it felt good, but I underestimated other’s involvement. Everyone took a seat and assumed things would turn out on their own,” Rosenbloom said, referring to the 2016 election. “It was a good lesson to me. I definitely feel better voting now than before.”

Students had mixed reactions to the results of the elections. Junior Mutale Mulenga was disappointed with the results in her home state of Georgia, but turned to the shift of power in the House of Representatives for a positive result.

“It is great that the Democrats have control of the House,” Mulenga, who identifies with the Democratic Party, said. “But a lot of states have [elected] Republican governors, and governors are where you see a lot of change in the state. The upsetting part is that Republicans have control of the Senate, where there are fewer seats so each person has more power.”

Sophomore Hina’oholeva Filimoehala-Egan focused more on the turnout levels. Political interest shouldn’t be the priority, she said.

“The election is very important, but the party system isn’t the most important. The last election, the Republicans took both [the House and Senate]. A lot of people were upset by that, but it got them to want to vote. People were able to hear both sides. We need to listen to both sides,” she said.

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