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Snapshots of democracy: Students capture sights, sounds of election

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From page A1 | November 11, 2012 |

Adam King, Davis High School's student body president, fills out his ballot in Tuesday's mock election at DHS. King said mock elections make students more aware of political issues and could encourage more to try the real thing “when we actually have a vote and we’re 18.” Zoe Juanitas/Courtesy photo

Students in Kelly Wilkerson’s Journalism 1 class at Davis High fanned out across the city to capture the sights and sounds of the 2012 election. Here are some of their reports:

Education concerns weigh heavily on volunteer callers
Sudwerk, Monday afternoon

On the eve of the election, the back room of Sudwerk is filled with constant phone calling and chattering. Students, teachers and citizens of the community have gathered to urge voters to cast their ballots with a yes for Proposition 30.

Tables are lined up against the walls with scripts scattered on top, one to two volunteers seated at each. With phones in hand, volunteers simultaneously record the results from phone calls while dialing different digits on their cells.

Among the volunteers is Frank Thomsen, president of the Davis Teachers Association and a teacher at Holmes Junior High. According to Thomsen, if Proposition 30 doesn’t pass, schools will suffer a $440 cut for each student.

“The cuts will come immediately and will be retroactive until the beginning of the school year,” Thomsen says.

The various voices of volunteers range from serious to energetic, informative to persuasive. They understand the consequences if they are unsuccessful.

Steve Savage is the coordinator of this event and works for the California Teachers Association. According to Savage, funding for schools is already chopped to the bone and its limbs will be gone as well if the measure fails. Programs, classes and electives will be diminished due to the $6 billion divestment if citizens vote no.

“Basically, all the fun stuff will be gone,” Savage said.

— Linda Su

A voice for GMO labeling
Monticello Seasonal Cuisine, Monday, early evening

It’s 5 p.m. on the eve of the election and the owner of Monticello restaurant, Rhonda Gruska, begins closing up shop.

The doors are shut and ready to be locked. The lights are dimmed and the chairs tower on top of each other. A Yes on Proposition 37 sign hangs in the front window of the organic restaurant. Inside, brochures in favor of the measure lie fanned out over the polished surface. Gruska takes a moment at the end of her long day to sit down and talk about why Proposition 37 is so important to her.

The measure calls for the labeling of genetically modified foods, also known as GMOs. According to Gruska, labeling GMOs should be a requirement because, “we believe consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.”

Many other countries already label GMOs on pre-packaged foods. Gruska believes the people of California should also be able to see what they’re eating.

While Monticello does not sell pre-packaged food, it does serve natural and organic food grown on its own farm. Supporting the proposition and labeling GMO’s will “create an educated consumer,” Gruska said.

— Hannah Kaplan

Stepping up to the polls for the first time
Birch Lane polling place, Tuesday, 7 a.m.

For 18-year-old William Bellamy, this election was special. It was the first time he had voted in an election. Bellamy is a Davis High senior and a Davis Enterprise journalist.

On Tuesday, Bellamy woke up early. He put on his black jacket and wore his black shorts. He then made his way to Birch Lane Elementary. Half asleep, he dropped his vote in the voting box. After he got his “I voted” sticker, he took a deep breath as if a heavy weight was lifted from his back. He then quickly headed to Davis High because he did not want to be late to his first-period class.

Bellamy said it was his responsibility to vote and have a say in the future of his country. He had been following the election from the beginning and had read the voting booklet, which took him two hours to finish.

Bellamy believes voting is an important step in determining the future of the United States and people should not do it blindly. “When insane people vote, insane people get elected,” he said.

— Aryan Maroufkhani

A class celebrates the election
Davis High, Tuesday, 11 a.m.

“What are battleground states?” teacher Caitlin Butler asks her buzzing 10th-grade world civilizations class as the bell rings.

A few of the more enthusiastic sophomores are patriotically clad in red, white and blue clothing. “Happy Election Day!” is written on the white board at the front of the class. An excited energy fills up the classroom. This is the first election many of the 15- and 16-year-olds are experiencing as politically involved young adults.

The class is hosting its own Election Day party, complete with a variety of desserts in the back of the classroom. Butler projects a map of the United States onto the white board and asks students to identify battleground states.

“Florida!”

“Ohio!”

“Yeah, Obama has to win that one if he’s going to be re-elected.”

“Ohio is a huge toss-up. … I think that the race is going to be really, really close,” Butler tells the students. “In fact, we may not even know tonight what the outcome will be.”

The strong air-conditioning ruffles the students’ informational Electoral College papers. Some students furrow their brows, looking genuinely concerned that the election might not go how they would like. Another quarter of the class seems unbothered by their teacher’s statement and continues to catch up on homework as the political discussion moves on.

The class party concludes with the showing of a goofy “Saturday Night Live” sketch that spoofs a debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Most of the students laugh, cheer and spew patriotic cookie crumbs, leaving red-white-and-blue confetti-like sprinkles on books and desks — the remnants of their first election as teenagers.

— Ellen Finn

Practicing for the future
Davis High Quad, Tuesday, lunch

The bell rings, signaling the end of fourth period and the start of lunch, and a wave of students floods the halls of Davis High.

Some make a beeline to their lockers, swapping out books and grabbing lunches. Others amble toward the Quad where 12 voting booths stand ready for the 2012 mock election. Sophomores, juniors and seniors alike lined up and waited to give their views on presidential, senator and school board contests, along with Yolo County measures and propositions.

At one booth, a blond-haired girl jiggled her leg, contemplating whether genetically engineered foods should be labeled. She was dressed in a red-and-white striped shirt and blue jeans, coordinating with the patriotic balloons, streamers and American flags strewn around campus.

Many high schools host mock elections to make students more aware of political issues. Student body president and senior Adam King said mock elections make students more aware of political issues and could encourage more to try the real thing “when we actually have a vote and we’re 18.”

King climbed the Quad steps and tossed his ballot into a box filled to the brim with other completed entries. One of the volunteers flashed a smile and said, “Thanks for voting!” King turned to leave, wearing what seemed like a look of accomplishment.

— Zoe Juanitas

Poll workers welcome children
Davis Library, Tuesday afternoon

Citizens streamed in and out of the bright room in the Stephens Branch Library on Tuesday afternoon to cast their votes. The five female poll workers welcomed not only voters, but children as well.

The law specifies you must be at least 18 to vote, but the library provided unofficial mock ballots. At the front tables where voters could pick up their ballots, workers offered the salmon-colored papers to children deemed capable of filling them out.

After one young boy received his paper, he dragged a chair next to his mother’s polling booth and focused intently on filling out his ballot. The poll workers told the boy he could keep his ballot for this year, but when he grew older he would be turning it in.

The boy received a “bragger tagger,” as the “I Voted” stickers are called at the library. The poll workers gave, or at least offered, “bragger taggers” to children regardless of age. Even a 7-week-old baby tucked comfortably into her large brown stroller got her own sticker.

— Shruti Pandey

Faces of democracy
Pioneer Elementary, Tuesday afternoon

Davis resident Greg Tanner, 51, drove through residential streets with American flags displayed on their front porches like a Boy Scout’s proudly earned merit badge. Tanner came to a stop in front of Pioneer Elementary School at 4 p.m.

Tanner got out of his car and strolled past the last few school children to enter the music room. He greeted the volunteers and made his way to a polling station with the standard-issue California ballot. Prop 30, Measure E, the next president: Tanner helped decide each contest with swift strokes from a black felt pen.

To his left was a middle-aged woman still wearing scrubs, her hair tightly pulled back in a severe hospital bun. To his right was a young woman sporting blue Converse sneakers and over-sized black hoop earrings, chewing softly on a piece of gum. At the end of the row of booths, an older man with a backpack resting at his feet ran his hand though his sparse gray hair.

Tanner handed his ballot back to the volunteers and walked out of the music room, back into the calm autumn night where the sun was beginning to lay its drowsy head on the horizon. On the way out, Tanner saw the woman in scrubs walking in front of him. The woman turned around, and recognized him as a neighbor.

Tanner said hello. The woman said hello back, and added with a smile, “It feels good to vote.”

— Avery Weinman

Poll workers make connections
Davis Assembly of God Church, Tuesday, 4 p.m.

At the Davis Christian Assembly of God, wind sweeps the nearly deserted parking lot and Highway 113 traffic speeds by with a muffled whoosh.

The voting room itself is a tiny box, the doorway the only window to the rushing outside noise. Two men and two women sit silently at a long plastic table peppered with multicolored papers. Directly across from them, a line of illuminated voting cubicles waits. The voters always seem to arrive in flocks.

A woman enters and steps up to the table. “Last name?” a worker asks.

“Garcia,” the woman says. Poll worker Ben Norman lights up. He informs Garcia that he lived in Latin America for a number of years and the two start chatting in Spanish.

A second woman appears in the doorway, her car keys still swinging in her hand. She gives her name to the table. “We live on the same street!” poll worker Rosa Washington Olson realizes.

The poll workers arrived at 6 a.m., a small part of something bigger, making brief connections throughout the day.

— Brigitte McFarland

Confusion at UC Davis
Russell Park, Tuesday, late afternoon

With couches shoved to the side of the room and only five voting booths on the back counter, many UC Davis students made their way into the poorly lit Russell Park recreational room, eagerly awaiting their turn to vote.

Unfortunately, for some students, excitement abruptly turned into confusion when they were told they were at the incorrect polling location. The students were redirected to their proper voting place.

According to freshman and first-time voter Marie Popp, she received an email telling her that all UCD students were supposed to vote at the Memorial Union, but when she went there she was directed to Russell Park, where she had to wait again in a long line before she could cast her vote.

Other perplexed students entered the room, asking if they were at the proper place. Some were redirected, while others were permitted to vote at this location.

— Sarah Garrett

Pioneer plays a part
Pioneer Elementary, Tuesday afternoon

“We’re all out of “I voted” stickers, but we’ll get more of them around 5:30,” Pam Thompson told a voter.

The makeshift polling place at Pioneer had a successful day.

“We’ve had an excellent turnout this year and we’ve been busy all day. Davis tends to be a very involved and aware community and, in fact, the entire Yolo County usually has a high voter turnout as well,” Thompson said.

Thompson, who has served as a volunteer poll worker for 11 years, says voting gives citizens the ability to make their opinions known.

“It helps maintain what makes America what it is,” Thompson said.

— Yrenly Yuan

Intrepid poll workers soldier on
Wildhorse Golf Club, Tuesday, late afternoon

In their last hours of work, poll workers at Wildhorse are still operating efficiently as voters cast their ballots for this year’s presidential election.

“Most of us (poll workers) are retired,” volunteer poll worker Al Hollmann said. “It’s just fun to participate. We get to meet some of our neighbors.” Hollmann has graciously extended a hand to voters since early morning, taking on the task of handing voters a green or pink folder that holds the ballot inside.

Hollmann does this while simultaneously tearing off “official ballot” receipts from finished voters approaching him to drop their slip in a bulky black box. He hands them an “I Voted” sticker with a warm smile. “There you go,” Hollmann says with delight.

As the clock hands climb their way to 8 p.m., voters file in and out of the polling room rapidly. Voting booths are almost never empty, taking people in like coins and spitting them out as fast as tickets. An older woman wearing a cherry red cardigan and a navy blue tee with the American flag plastered across her chest smiles countless times as she clicks the head of her pen up and down, waiting to attend to voters casting their ballots.

“You look lost!” she hollers across the room to what looks to be a new voter. “Come here I’ll help you.”

Other poll workers stroll around the room directing voters. “Are you a Wildhorse resident?” Francis Resta asks as he greets voters waiting, ready to direct them toward their correct precinct.

— Ashley Rinetti

In the company of children
Wildhorse Golf Course, Tuesday, early evening

Attached to one voter at the Wildhorse polling place is her little daughter. Dressed all in pink, she clutches her mom’s purse as she receives a cookie from one of the poll workers.

She nibbles on her cookie as her mom guides her to the voting booth. She stands on the very tip of her toes trying to get a good look but is unsuccessful. She tugs on her mom’s leg, is picked up, and is finally satisfied with a clear view.

“She’s been following the debates and wanted to make sure I voted for Obama,” her mom said. “She doesn’t like Romney at all.”

Across the room, two sisters dressed in identical shirts walk in with their mother. The girls cluster around their mother and listen as she explains what she is doing.

“If you don’t involve your kids earlier they won’t be much involved or interested further on,” mother Amy George said.

— Maddy Shippen

Young voters take their place in line
UC Davis Memorial Union, Tuesday, early evening

A steady stream of people on bike and on foot flows into the courtyard of the UC Davis Memorial Union, where students abandon their bikes and head into the building.

Just up the stairs of the MU waits a long line of people, spanning over three rooms and down a lengthy hallway. At one end of the line are students leaning or sitting against the walls, with computers in their laps, phones in their hands and ear buds dangling from their heads. At the other end is the polling room, an almost empty room with three officials sitting at a table and a handful of students filling out their ballots in the booths placed across the back of the room.

The vast majority of these students are voting for the first time. Most of them felt the need to vote in this election because several of the propositions dealt with education.

“I’m voting because there are issues that I need to be involved in especially since I’m a college student and it affects me directly,” college sophomore Nandor Laszic said.

Others felt strongly that voting was their civic duty. Being able to vote was an opportunity they could not pass up.

“I voted because even though I’m just one person, that one vote counts to me, and I want it because it’s my right,” UCD freshman Andrew Jenson said.

— Aydan Prime

‘A terrific night for America,’ Garamendi says
John Garamendi campaign headquarters, Tuesday night

In the last minutes before the polls close, the Garamendi campaign office in East Davis is brimming with volunteers and interns. Some interns have been working since the summer, and the election is the culmination of their efforts.

Papers are everywhere but the campaign is anything but cluttered, with a mechanical organization. The walls are plastered with campaign signs, from a “Yes on Prop. 30″ to a large “Garamendi for Congress” poster that takes up a quarter of a wall.

Several people are urging voters to make last-minute trips to the polls, but at this point, the only thing that can be done is to wait. The tension in the air is tangible, and dozens of eyes are glued to screens displaying the time. Minutes blend into seconds, and at 10-seconds interns lead a countdown. Cheers erupt at zero, and the focus now turns to the presidential election.

Many are checking the results when someone shouts, “274! Obama has 274!” The room explodes with noise, and people scream and clap. Several people are suddenly on their feet. There is hugging, laughing and someone is even lifted off their feet. A chant starts: “Four more years! Four more years!”

The room is cleared in preparation for a party. Tables are moved to the side, and a DJ sets up outside. Rep. John Garamendi, who will win another term tonight, arrives and people start to cheer and clap again.

People eager for photos swarm him, a request with which he happily complies.

“This is a terrific night for America,” Garamendi said in a speech to his volunteers. With Obama’s victory and the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, he hopes the House will be more accommodating.

Garamendi thanked students for their contributions and stressed that super PACs can never match the individual connection made through door to door canvassing, calling it “the greatest single political power.”

— Zachary Hertz

A late night for Measure E
Dos Coyotes in South Davis, Tuesday night

At 8:07 p.m., with four of 42 precincts reporting, Measure E had 65.1 percent approval, a little more than a percentage point below the required two-thirds vote. However, hopes were high.

“I’m really excited because I feel like we ran a really great campaign,” Measure E campaign coordinator Catherine Hawe said. “I think tonight’s going to be a great night for public education across the country.”

At 8:38 p.m., no new numbers had come in. Several circles of people formed in the Dos Coyotes restaurant, including some school board members, Superintendent Winfred Roberson and Delaine Eastin, former California superintendent of public instruction. Many kept their eyes glued to a screen looking at election results.

Cheers and shouts erupted as news of President Barack Obama’s re-election spread. However, Measure E was still a concern at 9:19 p.m. “Get me numbers,” school board trustee Richard Harris said.

“I want to do a victory dance. I’m optimistic,” a young woman in a black leather jacket and with blue eye shadow said to another woman. However, the results had not shifted.

The crowd started to thin out as the night drew on; the results were still in a tug-of-war stalemate. But at approximately 4 a.m., the news was official: Davis voters approved Measure E with 68.9 percent.

— Cliff Djajapranata

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