Oakland voters turn out, then party in streets

By Angela Reno

Voters at on-campus precincts voted overwhelmingly in favor of Sen. Barack Obama yesterday. … Voters at on-campus precincts voted overwhelmingly in favor of Sen. Barack Obama yesterday. According to election officials at both the Soldiers ‘amp; Sailors and Posvar precincts, Obama led Sen. John McCain three-to-one, with 3,343 to 1,076 votes. Politicians visiting the polls, including state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, said they were impressed with the turnout. Frankel reminisced about the 1998 election in which he ran. Precinct 8, which encompasses Litchfield Towers, was the largest in the state, and only two people voted, he said. Yesterday’s turnout was ‘unprecedented. [I’ve] never seen intensity and excitement like there was this year,’ said Frankel. The voter turnout was up everywhere in Oakland, despite the fact that the lines, like those in many other places throughout the country, were sometimes hours long. More than 2,800 people, many of them students living on Pitt’s campus, voted at Soldiers ‘amp; Sailors yesterday. At any time after 11 a.m. more than 200 students could be found waiting to vote at one of Soldiers and Sailors’ eight polling machines. Some students who arrived at Soldiers ‘amp; Sailors between noon and 1 p.m. said they waited in line for two to three hours. After learning she was only halfway to the polls despite already having waited in line for more than one hour, senior Mary O’Brien said, ‘I didn’t know I was only half way there ‘hellip; I would have probably tried to have left and come back if I had a busier day.’ ‘[But] our futures are on the line,’ said O’Brien, adding that ‘a lot is going to change with whatever candidate gets elected.’ Last-minute voters stand in two-hour lines The last Pitt student at Soldiers ‘amp; Sailors precinct, freshman Doug Thomas, voted at 9:50 p.m. yesterday, after a nearly two-hour wait in line. Thomas and his friend sophomore Harry Schmitt ran to the polls from Sutherland Hall, arriving only minutes before they closed at 8 p.m. ‘I registered in Allegheny County rather than D.C., which is where I’m from, so that made it more important for me to vote ‘hellip; so now I feel like my vote counts more,’ said Thomas. ‘Every vote counts and I want to vote in my first election,’ he added, after several major news networks had already given Pennsylvania’s electoral votes to Obama. Both Thomas and Schmitt said they remembered past elections, where the states were called early and then later overturned as the last results came in. The two talked about the importance of the election and echoed the overwhelming view that voters on both sides of the aisle wanted a change no matter who won. ‘We definitely need some kind of a change for sure,’ said Schmitt, ‘with the way the economy is today, with the war. We definitely need change ‘hellip; we definitely need something.’ Students encourage students to vote Students turned out yesterday to do more than just to vote. Some came to volunteer with Election Protection, a nonpartisan initiative that encourages groups to work together to make sure students vote on Election Day.’ Groups involved with Election Protection included Black Action Society, Campus Women’s Organization, College Democrats, College Republicans, Rainbow Alliance and the Student Vote Coalition. Krystal Mitchell of Election Protection said the polls were ‘crazy’ first thing this morning, but that the campus organizations worked together to help straighten out the issues. The main issues that students faced, aside from the long lines, were finding their correct precinct, getting rides to those precincts and filling out provisional ballots, if necessary. Another record-breaker’ in Oakland In the spirit of the record-breaking turnout, former Pittsburgh Steeler and pro football hall of famer Franco Harris spoke with voters in Soldiers ‘amp; Sailors last night. He thanked them for coming out to vote as they waited in line to cast their ballots. ‘It was great to see the college students here in line and thank them ‘hellip; for going to vote, and then finding out that [for] so many of them, this is their first general election they’re voting in,’ said Harris. ‘When I was in college, I didn’t vote.’ It was the furthest thing from my mind,’ he added. ‘That’s wonderful to see that they’re getting involved and that they’re gutting it out there ‘hellip; this is about their future and I’m so glad to see that they realize that ‘hellip; Hopefully this will be something they will do for the rest of their life.’ Harris said that what he thought the country needed to see the most yesterday was a sign of change. ‘We need a capable leader who surrounds [himself] with good people and someone who can plan and have a good strategy and then execute,’ said Harris, who supported Obama. ‘[Obama] has given this feeling of hope and optimism ‘hellip; and people are feeling good around the world. People are feeling motivated,’ said Harris.