Last Tuesday the nation decided: Barack Obama will serve his second term as President. Election Day itself is many things. For some people, it is the long awaited end to a bombardment of phone calls, nasty campaign ads, and endless pundit bickering on every news network. For candidates, it is a day to make a last ditch effort to tip the scales by going on a whirlwind of visits to swing states. For newscasters, it is a day to make stuff up to fill time until the real results come in, and for CNN specifically to play with its hi-tech toys, so really not too far removed from any other day. For many who chose not to vote, it was just any other day. But for many Villanova students, it was the day to exercise their right to vote for the first time.
Voting for the first time is a very exciting experience. Caitlin St. Amour ’15 echoed this sentiment.
“It was very weird!” she said, “I felt like such an adult when I left the booth. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was one of those moments where I really felt like I had grown up.”
In many ways voting truly is like a coming of age moment. Some of us probably remember when we were younger and our parents took us to the polls with them. Maybe you, your parents and your siblings held a miniature election. Now, rather than stuffing roughly ripped scraps of paper into an empty tissue box, we mailed a neat form or travelled out to the polls to cast our official vote.
Much of Villanova’s student population is from out-of-state. Many of these students chose to cast absentee ballots. Some however chose to register in Pennsylvania, joining other in-state students who travelled to their local polling place.
Erin Dobbs ’15 from Texas is one such student.
“I wanted to know for sure that my vote was counted,” she said. “I wanted to have that satisfying feeling of pressing the physical ‘cast vote’ button. I also wanted to cast my vote in a swing state.”
But the fun didn’t stop at the voting. It was Election Night in America and Villanova was definitely feeling the buzz. In Alumni Hall, students gathered in their lounge to watch the delegate count on CNN as the polls closed together. Some students even had their laptops open on Huffington Post, which automatically refreshed the count every 30 seconds to keep the room even further up-to-date.
There was certainly no shortage of choices when it came to coverage. MSNBC, anchored by Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews was the option for those who appreciate a more liberal slant and the experience that is Chris Matthews or CNN for those who appreciate silver foxes Anderson Cooper and John King, and an overdose of gadgetry. The juxtaposition of live footage of real voters with these exhibitions of “technology” such as the “Virtual Senate” segment served only to highlight its own ridiculousness. On the other end of the spectrum, Fox News was for those with a more conservative slant, and held a rather subdued and defeated tone as the night went on. Others, like myself, opted for the “fake news” option of live special editions of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.
No matter which station you watched, it was clear that the campus was very much into the election. It is estimated that 19% of the overall electorate was made up of people aged 18-29. So pat yourselves on the back 90’s kids!
Heather Schmidt, the president of Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan youth engagement organization which visited Villanova in October had this to say about the youth vote;
“Young people are savvy, and they’re committed to this idea is that their participation is how they take back power in this country.”
This is not surprising given that this generation is characterized by intense participation in social media platforms which are based on allowing one’s voice to be heard. It makes sense that this generation would extend this need to be heard to our democratic process. The use of social media also played a large role in this election. Both candidates made use of the different platforms, apps, and technologies to get the vote out. It was also at the same time for many a reason to look forward to the end of the election, since it would also be the end of one’s Facebook newsfeed being blown up by unasked for and very passionate political commentary . While perhaps sometimes causing rifts between those with radically different ideologies, Facebook also served to unite people during the election, making it easy for hall-mates to coordinate debate or election night coverage viewings, which facilitated interesting discussions about the issues important to the election.
Overall, the youth vote including Villanova students played a large part in this election. Armed with a predisposition towards participation prompted by the use of social media, this young generation proved that its voice would be heard. This spirit was palpable on Villanova’s campus as students throughout the day were shuttled to polling places, and then gathered with their fellow students to watch the results of the first election in which they were able to participate. The impressive youth vote speaks well for this generation, and this spirit of civic participation is one that will hopefully only grow. Regardless of your feelings about the election results, this is at least “change we can believe in.”
By Elena Giannella ’15