University students swarm polls near campus

Coffman Union results showed 1,405 votes for Kerry and 653 for Bush.

The Minnesota Daily

Streams of University students turned out to cast their votes in the presidential, congressional and legislative races Tuesday.

At the two University precincts, students overwhelmingly supported Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

Results from Coffman Union showed 1,405 votes for Kerry compared to President George W. Bush’s 653. At Centennial Hall, 1,006 people voted for Kerry versus 573 votes for Bush.

At Centennial Hall, the polling place for thousands of superblock residents, many cast their first ballots.

“You just gotta do it,” said business first-year student Alli Messer, who voted for the first time.

Neuroscience senior Phil Barbosa returned to St. Paul on Tuesday morning to cast his first presidential ballot. Though he spent more than an hour in line, he said, the wait was worth it.

“I couldn’t fit it in any other time,” he said. “But I had to get out to the polls.”

At Coffman Union, more than 100 students lined up before 7 a.m. to beat the voting rush.

In his 12 years running elections, that kind of morning crowd is “unprecedented,” said Larry Tawil, election chairman judge at Coffman Union precinct.

But by the end of the day, Tawil said the crowd size looked more typical.

Some voters took advantage of the Minnesota law that allows voters to register on Election Day at the polls.

But, between 300 and 400 students had some problems gaining access to the polls, said Mike Dean, grassroots coordinator for the University Legislative Network.

He manned the Voter Information Center in front of the Coffman Union polling site. He said the biggest problem was voters who failed to provide proof of residency.

Nate Russart, a sophomore wildlife major, said he did not have a utility bill to present and had trouble finding someone to vouch for him.

“Who started all the vouching?” Russart asked, before calling another friend to vouch for him. “I just want to vote.”

Approximately a half-hour later, a friend arrived and Russart cast his ballot.

Other locations reported that voting ran smoothly throughout the day.

Edwin Holmvig-Johnson, election judge chairman at the First Congregational Church of Minnesota, said there were no challenges to voter registrations.

Walter Liebenow, an election judge also at the church, said it was great to see young people turn out to vote.

“At age 82, the most heartening thing is watching young voters experience first franchise,” he said.

First-year student David Manthei, who voted at Van Cleve Park, showed up to the polls still undecided about which presidential candidate he favored.

But he voted because he said it is important to students’ future.

Eileen Kilpatrick, election judge chairwoman at Van Cleve Park, said young voters turned out in large numbers.

“If you look at the lines, you’ll notice they’re mostly young people and students,” she said.

At University Lutheran Church of Hope, sophomore Anolee Shah said she was disappointed that some people did not take the time to vote.

“It takes two minutes,” she said.

Student voters at Tuttle School were also turning out in large numbers, said John Watson, election judge chairman.

Senior Kari Tostenson said she thought the election would be really close, but said she hoped students would vote.

“Students are under-represented and these are issues that will affect us in the next four years and beyond,” she said.

Voting continued at a steady pace throughout the day, slowing slightly in the afternoon.

Several voters showed up at Centennial Hall and Coffman Union minutes before the polls closed.

Election judges were told to let anyone who was in line at 8 p.m. cast their vote.

“I wanted to be involved because this election is so important,” said first-year student Keely Shaller.

– Stephanie Kudrle, Jason Juno, Jerret Raffety, Sam Boeser, Naomi Scott and Bryce Haugen contributed to this article.