UCSB students both on campus and in Isla Vista came out in hordes Tuesday to cast their ballots in national and local races.
The polling stations, which opened at 7 a.m., encountered an unusually high number of voters for the presidential election. Volunteer poll workers at the San Miguel Hall, Santa Rosa Hall, St. Mark’s Catholic Church, Hillel, and Fontainebleu polling sites all said they faced lines lasting at least 15 minutes at some points throughout the day.
Andrea Labbe, a Santa Barbara County field supervisor for several precincts covering Isla Vista and UCSB, said Tuesday night that she thought turnout was close to 80 percent of eligible voters. At the Hillel polling location, she said approximately 1,000 people voted out of 1,400 registered. At the Santa Rosa Hall polling location on campus, volunteer Billy Wraith said about 720 people voted out of 1,019 registered.
Paul Coyne, a volunteer at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, said he was surprised with the number of voters who turned out early in the day. As of 12 p.m., all of the station’s voting booths were in continuous use.
“This precinct is generally for late voters. From 4 p.m. on it gets really busy,” Coyne said. “Today was unusual since people began showing up right at [7 a.m.].”
The precinct served 301 voters before 12 p.m., Coyne said.
“I expect the turnout may be even higher than 75 percent,” Coyne said. “They gave us enough ballots for a 100 percent turnout, so we are covered.”
Yuri Virkh, a second-year history and philosophy major and one of the earlier voters at the San Miguel Hall polling site, said he learned from his last on-campus voting experience to show up in the morning.
“I came early today because last time the line was long and it took forever,” Virkh said. “People are saying it’s the most important election, but it didn’t affect whether or not I would vote. I voted so I can take part in representative democracy.”
Samantha Nevels, a volunteer at the Francisco Torres polling site, said she noticed turnout this year was larger than in the past.
“More people are voting this year, probably because this year it’s been so out there and because of the war, it seems like everybody cares,” Nevels said.
At 4 p.m., four hours before the polls closed, the wait outside the University Religious Center was 20 minutes long.
“This is the busiest I’ve ever seen it,” said Rob English, election coordinator at the religious center. “Already, our number is at 740 for both tables.”
Volunteers at the Korean United Methodist Church said the lines were long, but not any longer than expected as of 3:30 p.m.
“We’ve had 600 to 700 people so far,” volunteer Kirk Schwarzbach said. “Our numbers are pretty close to expected.”
The polling place at Hillel experienced a similar situation. At 12 p.m., volunteer Art Gardner said the line was 15 to 25 minutes in length and the site had received 200 voters.
“It started out slow, but by nine we had a line and it has been growing since,” Gardner said.
Second-year communication major Margaret Morallo, who also voted early in the day at the San Miguel Hall site, said this year’s atmosphere was different from her last voting experience at Francisco Torres.
“Last year [the volunteers] were nice and friendly, but this year was very formal and get-the-job-done,” Morallo said.
Morallo said even though the campaign between candidates seemed juvenile, she voted because the election affects her future.
“Everyone is talking about it. Everyone is bagging on people,” Morallo said. “It’s like high school all over again.”
Of all the polling places on campus and in I.V., only one administrative error was reported at the University Religious Center.
“We’ve noticed people that have registered through the DMV do not come up on our ballots,” elections official Lyndon Valicenti said.
The only other incidents reported by the poll volunteers were people who tried to wear campaign buttons or stickers into the polling place.
“We had a couple of [people] wearing buttons or shirts saying the name of a candidate, and we had to tell them to take it off because you can’t campaign inside a polling site,” Nevels said.
Schwarzbach said most voters at the Korean United Methodist Church were very cooperative.
“People have been friendly and excited,” Schwarzbach said. “The only problem we’ve had is to tell people to take off their pins.”
Brett Dyer, a first-time voter and SBCC student, said he thought the polling environment at Fontainebleu was nothing special, but important nonetheless.
“This is the most propaganda I’ve ever seen for an election,” Dyer said, “I feel that it is important for our generation to be heard. Plus, I’m on the draft. I’m not going to lie.”
Santa Rosa Hall, one of two residence voting stations on campus, had 261 voters as of 1:45 p.m. Noel De La Torre, a second-year business economics major, handed in his absentee ballot at the site.
“We get a lot of shit for not voting, especially in our age range. I just wanted to do my part,” De La Torre said. “Every day for the last month someone, somewhere has been asking me to register and vote.”
– Staff Writer Jason La contributed to this report.