At Hanover polls, students turn out in droves

by Kelsey Blodget | 11/3/04 6:00am

Over 5,000 voters cast their ballots in Hanover's energetic Election Day atmosphere Tuesday. Normal sleep schedules stood interrupted while eager students showed up in droves -- by 10 a.m., when many Dartmouth classes commence, 2,000 votes had already been placed.

Volunteers from the Young Democrats and College Republicans also woke up bright and early for Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts. With six vans the Democrats borrowed from the Tucker Foundation, students could escape the rain and be shuttled directly to Hanover High School to choose their candidate. Supporters of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry plastered the sides of the vans with posters telling students to "Vote Pro-Choice" or "Vote the Environment," and the Young Democrats' visibility team waved signs at each of the five designated pick-up locations.

But even though students waited for the vans amidst a flurry of excited Democrats, the convenience of the non-partisan transportation succeeded in spurring participation among students of all political views.

Josh Turnbull '08 was one of the last Hanover voters to show up at the polls and voted only because he happened upon one of the vans on his way to dinner.

"I was going into Thayer to eat, and all of my friends were ragging on me for not voting," he said. "I turned around and there was a vote van right there. So I got in."

The lone voting van sponsored by the College Republicans saw considerably less activity. Kerry supporters holding signs in front of the Hopkins Center commented that they hardly ever saw students inside the van when it went by. But Matt Alexander '06, vice president of the College Republicans, said he was pleased with the number of students he encountered.

"It's kind of hard to find Republicans on campus," he said. "But I've been incredibly impressed with the turnout. It's nice to meet so many Republicans on campus who are so committed to supporting the president."

Many Kerry supporters noted that few students seemed to be brandishing Bush-Cheney signs, but Alexander attributed it to the difference in the groups' strategies.

"We haven't been doing the whole sign thing," he said.

The College Republicans and Young Democrats targeted likely Republican and Democratic student voters, respectively, through e-mail campaigns and door-to-door visits. The Democrats, who compiled their database through a poll conducted several weeks ago, estimated that 1,000 students voted Democratic.

But Kerry supporters also thought that Election Day visibility was important, and the political hotspot of Hanover drew volunteers not only from other cities within New Hampshire, but from surrounding states as well.

Several cars full of Middlebury students arrived in Hanover to do their part campaigning, but they didn't stop at just holding signs. Senior Dave Wright sang improvised political songs along to his guitar as he stood outside the entrance of Hanover High School. "Bye, George, Bye," sung to the tune of NSync's hit "Bye, bye, bye," was one of his favorites.

"I'm going to the polls tonight, George," he sang. "I'm going to put up a fight, George. I know you can't be right, hey Georgie, come on."

But not all of the campaigning was quite so light-hearted. Dan Selikowitz, a member of the Lebanon Democrats, said a woman almost lost control of her car and crashed into him when she flipped him off because of his Kerry sign.

Inside the polling room the scene was also lively. Volunteer Arlene Maller noted that there had been a constant flow of people throughout the day.

"There were a lot of new voters, mostly Dartmouth students," she said. "Some of the students were pretty excited because this was the first time they had ever voted, and that's a big deal."

By 7 p.m., however, the situation was dying down. Unlike in some polling precincts such as Manchester, no lines remained at the poll's designated closing time.

Moderator Willy Black opened the door and yelled out, "Any more voters?" several times, before finally closing it for good. When she reentered the polling room the volunteers burst into applause, and as they gathered their things to leave the room buzzed with congratulations and laughter.