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Election night unfolds at Notre Dame

Becky Hogan and Emma Driscoll | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

After the first polls started closing in the east, we decided to experience the election scene at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s to see how students would react to the results of the general election throughout the night.

8:15 p.m.

We started at Reckers and found a handful of students watching the early election results on the TVs there. The first two states had announced their results: Sen. John McCain won eight electoral votes in Kentucky and Sen. Barack Obama has secured three from Vermont.

College Democrats member Sy Doan was taking in some of the election coverage while working at Reckers and he was optimistic that the night would pan out the way he hoped.

“I like what I’m seeing,” he said. “I’ve been a supporter of Senator Obama and everything is going according to schedule I guess.”

Doan said he thought the gap between the two candidates would be slightly closer than the polls showed, but that the results would be clear as the night unfolded.

“I think Obama is going to win by a healthy margin,” Doan said. “I definitely don’t think it will come down to the wire.”

8:35 p.m.

We stopped at the Coleman Morse Lounge and found students studying with both televisions displaying the election coverage. Everyone seemed to be working hard, so we continued on to the LaFortune Student Center.

8:40 p.m.

Once we arrived at LaFortune, we saw that Obama had 102 electoral votes and McCain had 34. The gap was widening.

Freshmen Cavanaugh Hannan and Nathan Sergio were watching the election coverage for a few minutes at a table in LaFortune. Both planned to continue watching on their laptops throughout the night.

Sergio said that the race was going pretty much as he expected.

Although Hannan said nothing would surprise him from the election, he was amused by the initial uncertainty over Texas.

“[I’m] still in shock that Texas is pretending to be blue for a while … I think it’s funny,” Hannan said.

Sergio said that either candidate could have won the election, and that a winner would be determined by the end of the night.

Hannan said he felt a bit more certain about what the night would bring.

“I’ve had a feeling since the primaries that Obama would win that I couldn’t shake,” Hannan said.

9:10 p.m.

We heard that there was an election watch in Cavanaugh, and wanted to check it out. There were about 20 girls gathered in the social space watching the coverage on CNN together.

“I think [the elections] are going well,” freshman Maggie Fahrenbach said.

As Obama supporters, Fahrenbach and freshman Laura Wetterer agreed that Obama’s victory in Pennsylvania was “reassuring.”

They expected to know the results of the election by the end of the night.

“I think soon there will be [a definitive answer] with the way things are going,” Fahrenbach said.

Both liked CNN’s coverage of the events and said that they did not think that it had been biased.

They said the group of residents they were watching the elections with seemed to be split between supporting Obama and McCain.

“No one’s giving up yet and no one’s celebrating yet,” Fahrenbach said.

On our way back from Cavanaugh, we passed through LaFortune again and found sophomore Jackson Bangs filling in the electoral college map he found in Tuesday’s Observer as the results came in. He said he had his “fingers crossed for Obama,” but that he wished he had given more thought to voting in Indiana so his vote would have had more of an impact.

“I wish I hadn’t voted in New Jersey. I realize now how close it’s going to be,” he said.

Regardless of where he voted though, he was excited about fulfilling his civic duty.

“It’s just really awesome for this to the first presidential election I’m voting in,” Bangs said.

9:25 p.m.

We decided to venture out to Duncan Hall since one of us had yet to visit the newest residence hall on campus. It was a good thing we did because the Highlanders were enjoying old American classics such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and root beer floats in their social space.

Freshman Davin Sakamoto had been keeping up with the election results for a few hours and now the count was Obama 195, McCain 90.

Sakamoto said he was pleased with Obama’s lead.

“I think it’s pretty cool that we’re going to make monumental change for our country’s future,” he said.

9:40 p.m.

Our election trail was about to take us to the home of the Belles. This took some time, however, since we had to search for the Saint Mary’s election watch. Our sources told us that the event would take place in Vander Vennet Theatre in the basement of the Student Center, but by the time we arrived, it had relocated to LeMans Hall.

Senior Andrea Ortiz had been on a campaign trail of her own, as she had watched election coverage in three different places throughout the day – the Multicultural Affairs Office in the Student Center, Vander Vennet Theater and finally in LeMans. She said she continued to move because buildings began to close for the night.

Senior Siobhan Gordon was surprised that Obama was taking such a large lead in the election.

“We all expected it was going to be a little more close and hard fought,” she said.

10:30 p.m.

Since Obama had promised throughout his campaign to put “Main Street” first, and he was close to clinching the necessary 270 electoral votes, we headed to Main Street Pub in South Bend to find some students taking in the results off campus.

Playing pool with his friends, junior William Kemp said he had been watching Fox News and CNN closely, which brought election coverage discrepancies among different news networks to his attention.

As a pre-medical student, Kemp said the greatest issue in this election was healthcare and he supported McCain for his healthcare policy.

“I’m pre-med, and I think my career is on the line. For me, [it’s] McCain as far as healthcare,” he said.

11:00 p.m.

We were about to wrap up our tour of the election, and decided to make one last off-campus stop to Lafayette Apartments.

Senior Mike Folger was celebrating the results with his roommates.

“I assume Obama is going to win, and it’s great to be on the right side of one of the most historic elections,” Folger said.

Folger also said he was disappointed with the election coverage on the major news networks because he felt the “fancy graphics” and large number of analysts distracted from the results of the election.

“All we want to know is who is going to win,” Folger said.

Deadlines are calling – we have to cut our trip short. However, the results of this historic election will continue to be analyzed long into the night, and for weeks afterward.