Long Lines, High SpiritsGAMBIER, Ohio (November 3, 2004) Long lines and frequent rain showers did nothing to dampen the spirits of hundreds of Kenyon students who waited for as long as nine hours to cast a vote Tuesday in the 2004 presidential election, which in Gambier, didn't end until 3:45 a.m. Wednesday.
"I was expecting to be there for five hours, because that's the time frame people had said to expect," says Emma Haberl, Class of 2007. Haberl, a nineteen-year-old English major from Bronx, New York, arrived at the Gambier Community Center-the polling location for Gambier and College Township-at 2 p.m. She cast her vote nearly ten hours later at 11:47 p.m. "Once you've waited for five hours, you're not going to leave."
Haberl had little time to rest after voting Tuesday. A film crew from the ABC news program Good Morning America, drove her to Columbus so she could do a live interview Wednesday morning in front of the Ohio Statehouse. The news outlet was one of many to cover the persistence of the Kenyon student voters. Stories also appeared in the New York Times, the Columbus Dispatch, the Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, CNN.com, and television stations in Los Angeles and Houston, among others.
Kenyon student Margaret Hill, Class of 2005, also had an early morning television call Wednesday. Hill, a twenty-one-year-old from Chevy Chase, Maryland, majoring in psychology, traveled to Columbus early Wednesday morning with a film crew from NBC's Today Show for a live interview with co-host Matt Lauer (view the video). Hill, who stood in line from about 1:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. Tuesday, is a member of Kenyon's field hockey team, which has a match scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. A lack of sleep is a small price to pay for the chance to vote, she says.
"It really never crossed my mind to leave," she says. "I think that wasn't an issue for anyone. I didn't see a single person leave."
Hill and Haberl, both first-time voters, say their decision to vote was due in part to a sense of civic duty, something they say faculty, staff, and fellow students have emphasized during this election season.
"While it is a dubious distinction to be the precinct with the longest waiting time to vote, the incredible turnout at the polling place seems to me something to celebrate," says Kenyon President S. Georgia Nugent, who visited with students early in the evening, handing out food and water. "My hope is that the eagerness to vote that we are seeing among young people today will build the foundation for a lifetime of participation in the political process."