Election Day 2018: Through the Students’ Eyes

Xavier students could be found in abundance at polling stations across the city amid the hustle and bustle of yesterday’s midterm elections. Read about how students’ Election Day fared and what they thought of the experience.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6:09 p.m. on 11/7/2018 for formatting and to include additional content.

5:15 a.m. – Queensgate

Long before the sun rises, Matt Miller unlocks the front door of the campaign office that has served as his part-time home for the last six months. He lifts four stacks of literature and a roll of bright blue stickers from his cluttered desk, then takes one last look at the cramped quarters in the morning darkness. “Well, here we go,” he tells me, locking the door behind him and heading out toward the parking lot.

6:40 a.m. – Green Township: Oak Hills High School

As the first hints of morning light creep over the hill, Election Day’s early birds leave their cars and amble inside the double doors of the high school’s front entrance. Ellen Rakowski watches as a short line begins to form, those assembled anxious to cast a ballot and make their way to work. “A guy came out and started chanting ‘red tsunami’ after voting,” she recounts. “So that was pretty funny for me this early.”

7:30 a.m. – East Walnut Hills

“One poll worker here said turnout was higher than he’s ever seen, even higher than in presidential election years,” Bri Ruzanka explains. A 50-year-old man rode the bus with her to a stop near the polling location. He’d never voted before and isn’t sure he wants to, but she convinces him that it is important. They look over a sample ballot together, and before long he disappears into the lobby of the high rise apartment building to make his voice heard in government for the first time.

8:24 a.m. – Springdale: Maple Knoll Village Auditorium

Matt Miller guides an elderly poll worker out of the auditorium and into the parking lot. She had been passing out campaign literature inside the polling location, a severe violation of Ohio election codes. “I think she was a little bit confused.”

9:03 a.m. – Gallagher Student Center

“VOTER SUPPRESSION ALERT,” Sam Peters texts me. As students trickle out of the Gallagher polling location, she and her fellow campus politicos working the bipartisan voter information table hear reports that poll workers are telling voters that their ballots will be counted as provisional because their IDs do not match their residence halls on campus. Ohio does not have the sort of “exact match” laws that would relegate these ballots to provisional status.

She and classmate Lily Hutkowski spring into action, calling the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Ohio Democratic Party and Hamilton County GOP. Before long, the well-respected Hamilton County Board of Elections Chair Tim Burke, a Xavier graduate, is on the scene, speaking to poll workers to sort out the situation.

10:26 am – Columbia-Tusculum

An elderly woman makes her way towards the staircase leading up to the Carnegie Center polling place. Isabella Serna steps forward to offer her a sample ballot. Angrily, she responds “I got fifteen calls yesterday, and all these kids are telling me what to do. I’ve been voting since I was 21, I know how to vote.” “Have a nice day,” Isabella offers. “I guess,” she retorts.

She lets it pass. There are bigger things to worry about — her candidate has come down with a bad case of pneumonia.

11:17 a.m. – Hyde Park: Cincinnati Observatory

Standing in the circular drive laid out at the foot of the observatory, Karena Cash hasn’t spoken to many voters. “Two people have talked to me, most just walk around the circle to avoid me,” she says. Even those who do talk to her are elusive. “A gentleman doesn’t vote and tell,” an elderly man advises her with a chuckle and a nod.

12:15 p.m. – Blue Ash

At campaign headquarters in the basement of a mixed-use office park, Caroline Stella, Aedan Sullivan and Steven LaRussa are making calls at a feverish rate, encouraging voters to get out and vote before the day is done. Most calls go over well, but some don’t. “One guy told me to ‘Eff off,’” Caroline explains. “I hung up because you can’t argue with those sort of people.”

Steven tells me about an interesting encounter he’d had the day before on the phones — “I had a guy tell me he hates government, thinks all politicians are corrupt and screamed ‘ANARCHY’ before hanging up the phone.”

1:12 pm – Hyde Park – The Summit Country Day School

In the shadow of the enormous private school, Anna Moug hasn’t seen many people come to vote yet. A woman walks by. “Hi, would you like a slate?” “No thank you, have a nice day.” Par for the course so far.

1:50 pm – Evanston – St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

Chris Harding stands outside Evanston’s historic St. Andrew’s Church, which has a polling place located inside. Across the street and 50 feet to the east stands another polling location. The avenue dividing the two is the line between Ohio’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. “You can clearly see where gerrymandering runs right through this community,” he notes.

3:39 p.m. – Anderson Township: Hamilton County Victory Center

Tyler Harmon rubs his temples in exhaustion. His Election Day started the night before, and aside from a short nap, he’s been delivering campaign literature, coordinating volunteers and making phone calls. A few moments ago, he was having issues with the office’s auto-dialer, bringing the team to a temporary standstill. But after some quick IT work they’re back at it. Despite the setbacks, he’s confident. “Personally, it’s exhilarating despite the hours. I hate when roadblocks come up, but in the end I love it because it’s all so fun.”

4:48 pm – Anderson Township – Hamilton County Victory Center

The campaign office door pushes open as Alexa Deutsche strides in. She’s spent the last hour driving an elderly woman with COPD to her polling location so she can vote. According to Alexa, the woman requested an absentee ballot because of her condition, but never received one. She lives a two minute drive from her polling location, but that is an insurmountable barrier to participation in the democratic process. “It made me realize how much of our responsibility it is to vote while we still can.”

5:15 p.m. – Montgomery: Montgomery Municipal Center

The post-work rush is starting. Cars stack up on Montgomery Road. The air is jovial. Miles Tiemeyer can’t help but notice the number of families making their way inside, parents with children sharing the American tradition. “It didn’t even seem like there was an election tonight.”

5:43 pm – Green Township – Nathanael Greene Lodge

Matt Miller is deep in opposition territory. In the fading evening light he tries in vain to hand out sample ballots and slate cards. The voters who pass are polite but firmly decline him. “I’m really just here to stop the bleeding, to keep it as close as possible.”

7:30 p.m. – Norwood: Hamilton County Board of Elections

The sweltering heat of television lights engulfs the news desk. TV cameras come to life as Aedan Sullivan picks up the microphone and takes one last look at his notes. “It was pretty interesting to talk about the campaign and to play that out to a live audience.”

9:36 p.m. – Downtown

Jubilation. The victory announcement flashes over the flatscreen TVs. The room is charged with an euphoric energy yet retains a sense of responsible calm. After six grueling months, Tyler Harmon can breathe a sigh of relief.

11 p.m. – Norwood: Hamilton County Board of Elections

“And that will conclude this year’s broadcast of Behind the Yard Signs.” The television screen blinks off, and the stifling heat of the lights recede. Aedan Sullivan lets out a deep sigh of relief as another Election Day slips off into the night.

By: Ryan Kambich | Opinions & Editorials Editor