November 5, 2008

Election Excitement Grips C.U., Ithaca

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Obamania erupted in Collegetown just after 11 p.m. as Barack Obama was declared the next president of the United States. People poured out of bars and crowded the streets as they soaked in the historic moment.
“It’s crazy, oh my God,” Leslie Tseng ’10 said. “Everyone is running up and down Dryden Road, yelling ‘Barack Obama’ and setting off fireworks.”
It was a time of unbridled celebration across campus.
“After McCain conceded, everyone was on cell phones, smiling and screaming. Everyone was really happy and the atmosphere was great,” Claudia Mattos ’11 said.[img_assist|nid=33305|title=Obamania|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Celebration sparked across Ithaca following Obama’s victory. Students congregated on Ho Plaza and stormed into Olin Library in a euphoric surge of exhilaration.
Near the Commons, conga drums rattled as over 100 people of all ages breakdanced and sang, yelled and cheered in front of a giant screen at a party hosted at the Women’s Community Building by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.
At the same time, freshmen in North Campus’ Bauer House shouted in utmost joy, said Elise Gonzales ’09.
“It’s pretty loud in the building. People were saying, ‘This is historic, this is amazing.’ They were cheering and saying this is a big moment for them,” said Gonzales.
Amidst the festive atmosphere, however, the supporters of John McCain on campus quietly expressed their disappointment.
“Another resident who supported John McCain knocked on my door and asked for a hug,” said Gonzales, who is a residential advisor at Bauer.
While about 70 students of an election-watching party in Hans Bethe House cheered and applauded to an Obama victory, celebration was mostly ‘quiet,’ according to Rebecca Ruckdashel ’11.
“We are kind of a mixed crowd here, with Democrats and Republicans. So we don’t want to sound obnoxious by being too loud. The Republicans look kind of sad, but I don’t think they are shocked,” Ruckdashel said.
Although the Cornell campus appeared calm and composed in the afternoon, Cornell students, like many Americans across the country, had the presidential election tugging at their heartstrings.
Only about 30 percent of Cornellians are from New York State, so many had already mailed their absentee ballots prior to Tuesday. Nonetheless, many students turned up to polling stations across the University yesterday to vote for the next president of the United States. Upon casting their votes, many students proudly displayed an “I voted” sticker on their chests for the first time.
“It is pretty cool how you just pull the lever. It’s like a vending machine,” said Michael Lin ’11 about the ballot machine.
“I went to vote really early this morning because I didn’t want to wait in line,” Claire Lyons ’11 said.
Indeed, at 4 p.m. a short line was seen at the polling station in Robert Purcell Community Center. When asked about the turnout, a staff widened her eyes and simply exclaimed, “Huge!”
“The voters here are mostly students. They are very patient and polite in lines,” said an Ithaca resident who volunteered at a polling station for the first time. Although she only received minimum wage for her efforts, she emphasized that money was not the reason behind her involvement.
“It’s our civic duty,” she laughed.
A majority of voters in Ithaca chose Barack Obama over John McCain, with the Illinois Senator garnering over 85 percent of the vote.
Although national polls mostly pointed to a Democratic victory, excited supporters of Barack Obama were cautious not to celebrate too early. Students and Ithacans alike said that they felt “excited but nervous.”
“I won’t know how to feel until the results are in,” said Cristina Rivara, a student from Tompkins County Community College.
Thomas Riehl ’09 and Katherine Crocker ’09 both described themselves as “cautiously optimistic.” They expressed concerns that an Obama victory could be lost to corruption in the electoral system.
“I’m very motivated to vote even though I feel a bit exhausted by the ‘epic’ campaign. Energy-wise it’s sapping, but emotions are running high. By and large I think people will be relieved when [the election] is over,” said Crocker, who was wearing an Obama shirt.
By yesterday evening, many students had already voted and were ready to embrace the end of the election. But a lone group was still actively campaigning for its cause in Collegetown. After a day’s lobbying on Ho Plaza, KyotoNOW! continued to persuade passers-by to prioritize environmental issues while they vote.
“[KyotoNOW! and] are non-partisan. We hope that people are thinking about the environment while they vote, no matter who they vote for,” said Liz Pavisha ’09, vice president of the KyotoNOW! group.
After 10 weeks of campaigning, the green group managed to convince 1,804 people to sign Power Vote pledges and make clean energy a top issue in the election, according to Katherine McEachern ’09, president of KyotoNOW!
As evening descended, students and Ithacans gathered in front of television sets. Election-watching parties were planned from the Carol Tatkon Center on North Campus to the bars in the Commons.
“All the residential houses I know of are sponsoring some kind of event tonight,” said Jessica Vasquez ’09, a residential advisor at Low Rise 6 and 7. The Low Rise houses held several informational sessions about election-related issues for the past few weeks, according to Vasquez.
Oakenshields — in the spirit of celebration — also hosted its popular Election Day Soup Contest for the sixth time.
“It’s a bit of fun and it’s something different. It’s a little competition among the chefs and the kids like it,” said Jill Schufelt, assistant manager of Oakenshields.
Down in the Commons, a colorful “Happy Election Day” sign stood in front of the Moonshadow Tavern. The bar’s manager, Brad Benjamin was expecting a “pretty large crowd.”
“Generally speaking, everybody at this bar cheers for Obama. I’m sure we will party if Obama wins,” Benjamin said.
Even the non-voters did not feel left out of the celebration. At the Holland International Living Center, where about 60 percent of the residents hailed from overseas, an election-watching party was held after some residents presented an informal session explaining the U.S. electoral system.
“It is very exciting to be here and have a chance to see how Americans are so passionate about politics and change,” said resident and exchange student Michael Li ’10, who is from China.
Youth who are not old enough to vote are equally excited, said Janet Souter-Kline, who teaches 9th graders at Ithaca High School.
“The kids are very excited. They were all talking about how their parents are voting and asking us [teachers] who we voted for,” she said.
“It is a historic campaign,” Li said.