Across the campus yesterday students lined up to cast their votes. With the pull of a red lever Cornellians participated in close political elections that seized the attention of New York and the nation.
“Everyone I know voted, either with an absentee ballot or they registered here, but everyone voted,” Sarah Ridner ’01 said.
“I’ve never voted before and I was so excited, surprisingly excited in fact,” she said.
Other students also succumbed to the excitement of finally partaking in a presidential election. Rob McNamara ’04 remarked that he felt patriotic, while Julie Kluka ’03 said, “It feels so good to finally have my say in the world, because I have a lot to say. Afterwards I felt so empowered.”
Some students, however, were dissatisfied with the mainstream candidates and political parties.
“I wasn’t really all that pleased. It [her decision to vote for Vice President Al Gore] was definitely the lesser of two evils,” Heather Giambo ’04 said.
Giambo’s statement reflects a common theme among supporters of Ralph Nader and the Green party during this year’s election campaign.
“It seems like Gore and [Texas Gov. George W.] Bush are going for the same thing. It doesn’t seem like you’re voting for the candidates — it’s more like you’re voting for the party. That’s why I voted for Nader — that’s part of the reason,” Dave Himmelfarb ’04 said.
Although various students see both the Democratic and Republican candidates as having no redeeming qualities, others like Sarah Seo ’02 cannot imagine a more wasted vote than one not cast for Gore.
“I used to be a Republican, then I turned 12. How can anyone actually vote for Bush? I have lots of Republican friends who ended up voting for Gore because they saw the candidates and realized Gore was the better candidate by far,” she said.
Other students favored Bush.
“Gore was just too abrasive to me. Bush just felt like more of a real person,” Courtney Scoggin ’03 said.
Still not everyone shared in the voting fervor. Some found the process somewhat of a disappointment because of the delayed results.
“Voting is rather anti-climactic, because you don’t find out for [at least] five hours,” Miko Crawford ’01 said, “. . . but you still feel good. I did my service to America.”
Some students did not vote yesterday, either because they are ineligible by citizenship or age or they did not send in an absentee ballot.
Others simply were disinterested.
“It takes too much time,” Mike Pu ’03 said. “Maybe in the future, when I’m older and I really want to do something for this country — for or against the system — I’ll vote,” he added.
As the campaign trail blazed across the state, citizens in the Cornell community gained first-hand awareness of the issues and candidates.
“I felt I was privileged to be at Cornell during the campaign season because of all the campaigning that’s gone on in Ithaca and Tompkins County,” said David Gross ’04, an avid supporter of Rick Lazio.
Although Lazio missed Ithaca on his last run through the state, Gross managed to meet the candidate three times when he visited the area previously.
Lazio’s support came from independent students, in addition to groups with political motives on campus.
“I am not affiliated with any campus affiliation. I prefer to voice my opinion when it is necessary,” Adam Simons ’01 said. “I expressed a common voice heard throughout New York State, a voice of common sense, a voice for Lazio.”
No matter how passionate Lazio supporters were, in the end Hillary Clinton prevailed, winning 56 percent of the vote with most precincts in the state reporting.
From reading the internet and newspapers to watching the debates on campus or on television, Cornellians found various methods to inform themselves about the candidates and the issues surrounding the election.
Shannon Darcey ’03, who attended a mock debate on campus, also sought information through discussion with people “whose opinions and values I respect.”
For some voters, the nature of the campaigns provided entertainment.
“Buchanan had some funny ads, but they were useless,” E.W. Steptoe ’02 said.
The campaigning provided a basis for criticism from others. The emphasis on celebrity support and popularity in this election turned off some students.
“I’m pro-Hillary, but it seemed pointless to have Ben Affleck at her rally. It didn’t seem to be relevant,” Bria Morgan ’04 said.
Republican and Democratic advocates campaigned outside the polling stations at Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC), Class of ’22 and the Collegetown Fire Station.
The presence of campaigners irked some voters rather than influencing them.
“When you’re 100 feet away from the booth, you already know how you’re going to vote,” Jessica Gentile ’02 said. “I think it’s wrong for them to harass you as you’re walking in.”
One student noted that RPCC was mainly devoid of Nader signs.
“I’m surprised that, from what I see, the bulk of the Cornell population has not woken up to the corporate domination of America’s main two political parties,” Josh Young ’04 said.
Young later brought his very own Nader signs and campaigned. He also pointed out the lack of support for Bush in New York State and on campus.
“You don’t see a Bush sign. You see Lazio signs. People aren’t going to waste their time on Bush,” Young said. “Moreover, you haven’t seen a commercial for Bush [in New York state] either, because he doesn’t want to waste his money,” he added.
Crawford exemplified the New York anti-Bush sentiment, “I hated his father, and I figured I’d hate the son, and I was right,” she said.
Despite their dual presence at the polling places, Cornell Democrats and Cornell Republicans remained without conflict.
“We keep the bloodshed to a minimum,” joked Ryan Horn ’02, chair of the College Republicans.
The campaigners at the Class of ’22 residence hall, however, faced a different situation. Members of the Cornell Democrats were standing outside the building a little before 5 p.m. when waterballoons, pieces of chalk and hard candy started flying toward them from a fourth floor window.
“The water balloon came first, then about 15 minutes later they started throwing more stuff,” said one member of the Cornell Democrats, who declined to give his name.
They called the Cornell police, who later arrived and talked to an individual who was involved in throwing the items.
“[We] told him to cease and desist, so to speak, and that’s about it,” said Patrol Officer Dan Murphy of the Cornell Police Department.
Archived article by Heather Schroeder