Ballots in the Ballroom: 5Cs Cast Midterm Votes

There was a tangible mixture of anticipation, disappointment and excitement at the Claremont Colleges on Tuesday night as results from the 2014 midterm elections trickled in. 

The Republican Party gained control of the United States Senate by picking up at least seven seats formerly held by Democrats, while also making substantial gains on its majority in the House of Representatives. In California, voters re-elected Governor Jerry Brown and weighed in on six propositions. California residents voted to pass Proposition 1, which authorizes a $7.5 water bond designed to address California’s drought as well as Proposition 47—perhaps the most discussed ballot measure—which reduces penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes.   

Many 5C students participated in the election by voting for the first time, casting absentee ballots that would help decide key races and hot-button propositions in their home states, including marijuana legalization in Oregon, a minimum-wage hike in Nebraska and a so-called “right-to-life” amendment in North Dakota.

“It was very exciting to get to cast my vote in favor of legalizing marijuana,” said Bennett Sorensen PZ ’17 from Lake Oswego, Ore. “The passage of this ballot measure is going to have a lot of positive effects for the state, and I am proud to have been a part of making history.”

Across campus, however, a significant number of students complained that they were unable to cast a vote due to complications receiving their ballots or restrictive voter registration procedures. Kate Dolgenos PO ’17, from Philadelphia, Penn., said that she had mailed in a request for an absentee ballot about three weeks before the election, but her ballot was never sent. 

“I think it’s horribly inconvenient that you can’t request an absentee ballot online,” Dolgenos said. “The fact that such an option doesn’t exist has likely prevented countless college students, such as myself, from voting and participating in the democratic process.”

Several elections-related events took place during the night of the elections on campus, including “Midterm Crossfire: Election Night Panel Discussion” at Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. The event was hosted by visiting assistant government professor Zachary Courser CM ’99 and included four student panelists who answered a series of audience questions about the elections.

“Part of the purpose of tonight was to include both sides of the debate,” Courser said to TSL following the event. “We were very clear that we had two student panelists from the right and two from the left, and we wanted to have a balanced opportunity for the audience to hear from both perspectives and be able to ask questions.” 

One of those student panelists, Chris Gaarder CM ’15, is a conservative writer and co-editor-in-chief at the Claremont Independent.

“With the GOP controlling both houses of the legislature, they could put out a Republican-branded student loan policy, which would look different from what Democrats have proposed, but [they] would be very relevant to students,” Gaarder said.

Not all students, however, shared such optimism about what might be coming from a newly emboldened Republican Party in the Capitol.

“The Republicans’ grip on power is bad news for all Americans, including students here at the Claremont Colleges,” Rachel Miller-Haughton SC ’17 said. “I think we should be expecting a plethora of attacks on issues ranging from women’s health to voting rights.”

The Pomona Student Union (PSU) hosted a midterm election viewing party at Doms Lounge at Pomona College. PSU board member Beshouy Botros PO ’17, who organized the event, shared his reaction to the election results.

“Midterm elections never go the president’s way, so I expected the Democrats to lose Congress,” Botros said. “But I’m more disappointed by the gubernatorial races. The blue states like Illinois and Massachusetts shouldn’t have elected Republican governors.”

Aaron Sege PO ’18, who attended the viewing party at Doms Lounge, said that he was not surprised by the results.

“It just means more gridlock for the next two years,” Sege said. “So it won’t be any different from how it is now.”

Sean Gunther contributed reporting.

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