Students tune in as election results unfold


A week after the University got an unexpected two days off from Hurricane Sandy, it celebrated an unofficial election day holiday at bars and various watch parties across Grounds. Those watching political returns, like many across the nation, spent Tuesday evening gathered anxiously around televisions and laptop screens, constantly refreshing pages.

Interactive media largely shaped students’ responses to the election results. Students tweeted commentary throughout the night, many checking Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times website.

Less than an hour after the West coast polls closed at 11:14 p.m. EST, President Barack Obama tweeted to followers: “This happened because of you. Thank you.” The news was met by ecstatic cheering and chants of “Four more years!” at some watch parties — and gloom at others.

The University Democrats met upstairs at the Biltmore on the Corner to watch the results in real time. Students trickled in at about 7 p.m., but it wasn’t until an hour later that tables filled. Music blaring from the speakers competed with the election coverage streaming on the TVs.

Many students who voted for Obama expressed concern for gay rights and women’s rights, among other issues. “I’m socially liberal – I support equal rights in terms of LGBT and women’s reproductive rights,” fourth-year College student Anna Lewis said. “And in terms of foreign policy, I don’t trust Romney.”

University Democrats President James Schwab, a fourth-year College student, said he had been optimistic about Obama and Kaine winning before the results were announced. He said he thought most University students voted for the Democratic ticket. “There were so many more Obama stickers today,” Schwab said. “I mean, that’s anecdotal evidence, but anecdotal is better than none.”

Nearby, the College Republicans rented out the second floor of Trinity Irish Pub. Students hoped Romney’s plan for rejuvenating the economy would be successful.

It wasn’t all party politics, though. College Council hosted a bipartisan watch party down the street at Boylan Heights. Free appetizers and good spirits drew crowds of excited voters.

“One hundred years ago people were campaigning in the streets, especially women, just to have the right the vote,” second-year Nursing student Mary Harrington said. “It’s our duty, just out of respect for them, to vote.” Student loans, health care and women’s rights topped Harrington’s list of concerns.

Now that Obama has earned another four-year term, College Council President Tyler Crown, a third-year Commerce student, echoed much of the sentiment expressed by both Republican candidate Mitt Romney and Obama — the time for partisanship has past.

“A lot of us right out of college need jobs, and we’re going to need our voice to be heard,” Crown said. “Honestly, I just want whoever wins, for the county to unite behind them, and hopefully from here we can take the next step.”

OpenGrounds, a community studio space on the Corner, held a viewing party open to students and the general public. Television sets stretched wall-to-wall with CNN broadcasts, and computers flashed updates from the New York Times and other polling websites.

“It’s fun to watch these nail-biters,” Assoc. Politics Prof. Lynn Sanders said Tuesday evening on CBS19, before saying she was glad Virginia GOP Senate candidate George Allen conceded his race early so everyone could go home and enjoy a beer.

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