May 25, 2019

First time voters flock to the election polls

Poll workers noticed an increased voter turnout due to the controversial ballot measures and historic presidential election. Locally, voters gathered at Woodward Park Baptist Church on E. Spruce Avenue to cast their votes.
Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

Televisions all over the Fresno State campus were tuned in for Election Day coverage Tuesday. Students walked around wearing presidential candidate T-shirts. Some had buttons on their backpacks for different propositions they were for or against. Others simply wore “I voted” stickers.

With choices on the ballot ranging from U.S. President on the national level to possibly banning same-sex marriages in California, voters had an array of issues that garnered the interest of people who hadn’t voted before.

For some student voters, it was their first chance at wearing one of those “I voted” stickers.

Kyle Sunderland, a graduate student studying kinesiology, thought there were a lot of controversial items to vote on. Though he had been eligible to vote before, things on this year’s ballot persuaded him that it was time to vote in a major election.

Voter inspector, Holly Madsen, above, said that well over 150 voters had passed through the polling location at Woodward Park Baptist Church on E. Spruce Avenue by 9 a.m. yesterday, an indicator of the record voter turnout predicted by many for the 2008 national elections.
Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

“This was the first time I’ve had interest in the propositions,” Sunderland said. “And the presidential race is always controversial. Now that you throw in a female vice president and an African-American presidential candidate, it makes things even more controversial.”

A few miles down the street from Fresno State, at Saints Community Church of God in Christ, poll worker Paul Williams saw the highest number of college-aged voters he has seen in more than 20 years of Election Day volunteering. To his eyes, college-aged voters made up about 20 percent at his precinct. But Williams also thought that voter turnout overall was the highest he’s seen.

When the poll opened at 7 a.m., Williams said there were 25 people standing in line to vote, some of whom had been there since 6:30 a.m.

“I think we’re getting a lot of first-time voters,” Williams said. “Everybody seems excited and we’ve had double or triple the normal turnout.

“Usually we’ll get 250 to people vote in six hours,” Williams said. “In just over three hours, we’ve already done that.”

According to the California Secretary of the State Web site, California had about 550,000 more registered voters, as of Sept. 19, than it did for the 2004 presidential election. California has averaged 12,000 new registered voters a month since mid-May.

Fresno County Clerk Victor Salazar was working at the County Clerk’s office from 4 a.m. Tuesday, until late in the evening. As workers totaled up the ballots, Salazar said voter turnout is as strong as he has seen.

“It’s a very high turnout,” Salazar said. “We are projecting a 70 percent turnout, and what we release tonight will be a snapshot that is very representative of the final results.”

Salazar said that voter turnout was only 30 percent when the California primary election was held in June.

However, at Fresno State, new voters were excited.

Plant science major Elvis Martinez, a first-time voter, had been looking forward to casting his vote before attending his first class of the day.

“I was a little nervous,” Martinez said. “But I thought it was time to make a change and to try and make a difference.”

After class, Martinez planned on keeping an eye on how the different races were going and how people ended up voting on the different propositions.

“I’ll be watching it until the end,” he said.

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