Paying the price for Democracy: Time
November 5, 2008 9:23 PM
Many first-time student voters who showed up to cast their ballot at SF State’s polling center, Mary Ward Hall, were in for a jaw-dropping surprise: a two-hour wait.
The line began at Mary Ward Hall’s entrance and snaked around the building, sliding past where the dorm hall begins. Dustin Fabian, Seven Hills Conference Center events coordinator, said he saw students lined up when he arrived for work at 5:30 a.m., long before the poll center opened at 7 a.m.
“It began to get really long after noon,” Fabian said.
However, the line’s length didn’t seem to faze students as many braved the cold and patiently waited in small groups, chatting with friends or squeezing in study time, with their heads buried in textbooks.
Freshman Ethan Petznick, 18, began to near the line’s end after a 1 hour, 40 minute wait. “I just turned 18 a month ago,” Petznick said. “I felt it was important to vote because being Republican for the past eight years screwed us.”
Candace Kavanagh, freshman, is a friend of Petznick and waited in line next to him. For her, being able to vote resonates on a more personal level. “Being a gay lady, [voting against] Prop 8 is really important,” Kavanagh said. “If I wait in line, maybe [gays and lesbians can continue to] get married.”
Kavanagh also said that one of her instructors recently married her partner. “It’d be sad if tomorrow it [the marriage] was wiped out because I didn’t stand in line,” Kavanagh said. “I stand in line for stupider things like Space Mountain [at Disneyland].”
Freshman Laurel Somers spotted friends Petznick and Kavanagh in line and ducked under the tape. “I’ve looked at the line all day and kept putting it off,” Somers said. The student added that she is a Republican voting for McCain. “I think McCain is more equipped to get us out [of Iraq] more efficiently,” she said. “The war comes back to the economy, [and] it’s hurting us everyday.”
Freshman Meghan Presson and Alexa Bicos said they also found a way around the system. “We cut [in line],” Presson said. “We were looking for someone we knew and found this guy,” she said, signaling towards a friend.
However, Presson and Bicos’ short cut still landed them a 45-minute wait, though they didn’t seem to mind.
“If I didn’t vote, I feel like it would be a waste,” Bicos said. “I wouldn’t be doing anything [if I wasn’t here]. I’d just be sitting at home, watching TV.”
Presson and Bicos said that a personal tie to vote against Proposition 8 also brought them out. “We have a teacher that just got married to her partner,” Bicos said.
Bicos said that his teacher motivated her students to vote. “We want change, and we have a chance to create it,” Bicos said. “We need to stand in line to make it happen. It’s not going to come free. “
Freshman Yvonne Ma got in line around 5:30 p.m. “I’ve been at class and work all day,” Ma said. “I definitely thought [the line would] be shorter.”
Ma said that she hoped her wait wouldn’t go past 6 p.m. “I’m supposed to meet my friends to work out,” she said, adding that she also has an intramural volleyball game at 9 p.m. “But I don’t mind [waiting longer]. I’m pretty patient,” Ma said. “This election is worth waiting for.”
Poll worker Angeline Lowe said that once students made it inside, most seemed angry about having waited so long. “In the end, though, most were relieved when they finally got their ballot to vote,” Lowe said.
Leadership High School student Chase Johns, 17, also volunteered to work the polls at SF State. Johns said that he was put at the end of the line at 20 minutes after the polling place closed to block further people from forming.
“I didn’t expect it [the minimum two-hour wait] — I’m surprised,” Johns said. “It was a good turnout.”
Around 8 p.m., before Johns was placed at the end of the line, the poll worker said that he found out who won the presidency by the ecstatic shouts that pierced the campus night air. “I knew who won [the presidency] by the screaming. I didn’t see anything on TV, I just knew from the noise,” he said. “I just hope that change really does come.”
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