As polls closed at 8 p.m., numbers from polling workers showed that voter turnout had more than doubled from the midterm elections in 2014. Four years ago, 1,113 people voted on campus; on Tuesday, 2,762 people cast their votes.
The sun has just risen on Penn's campus, and students still wiping the sleep out of their eyes are already lining up at one of campus’ seven voting stations. Today, members of the Penn community will join millions across the country to vote in what many are describing as the most important election in a generation.
The location at Harnwell College House has two voting machines and is decked out in large sample ballots around the voting booths.
By 7:30 a.m., poll worker Aaron Kenton said turnout seemed encouraging, adding that he has already witnessed more voters than he did at the May 15 midterm primaries. According to Kenton, Harnwell had already served six voters. This is a marked improvement from the primaries, when the location did not see their first voter until 9 a.m. and had a total turnout of nine voters.
“I’ve always volunteered. Since I’ve been 18, I’ve been running polls. I find it my civic duty,” Kenton said. “When voting is not a hassle, people vote.”
At the ARCH building, which serves those registered at Hill College House, Kings Court English House, Sansom Place, and New College House, there are four machines. Compared to Harnwell, where voters were mostly students, ARCH saw a mixture of students and faculty. Several large groups of friends turned out to vote together and left smiling with their “I Voted” stickers.
These early morning voters will be privy to several perks around campus — including a free medium hot coffee, cold brew, or groothie at Saxbys and free french fries at Shake Shack.
President of Penn Democrats Dylan Milligan, who was sitting outside of Houston Hall with a few friends, said casting his ballot took 30 seconds.
“It’s pretty incredible — we’re immensely privileged in being able to have a say in our government,” Milligan, a Wharton junior, said. “I thank my lucky stars everyday that I can vote, and I think everyone shouldn’t take this right for granted.”
At 8:30 a.m., the voting location at Iron Gate Theatre, which has two voting machines, already had a line. This location is in polling district Ward 27 Division 11, which had multiple hour-long waits in 2016.
As the rain intensified heading into lunch, voting stations in Houston Hall reported no lines. Thirty minutes later, the poll location was reporting a wait time of under 15 minutes.
As of 12:45 p.m, poll workers reported that close to 400 people had voted at Houston Hall.
Drexel instructor Pamela Yau was one of the lunchtime voters.
"I vote in every election, so this is not any different. And I encourage all of my friends and family to vote as well," Yau said. "That's exactly why I come out to vote: for those who cannot."
More than 290 people had voted at the ARCH location as of 2 p.m., according to election judge and Penn alumnus Daniel Flaumenhaft.
Flaumenhaft has been volunteering at elections on campus for over 10 years and said this is the highest non-presidential turnout he's ever seen. He added that the voter count that he is seeing at 2 p.m. is already higher than the typical count for an entire day in previous midterms.
"It's not just way, way higher than is normal for a non-presidential year. This would be really good for a presidential year," Flaumenhaft said. "It's obvious that this is an election people are excited about and really care about."
Meanwhile, at Harrison College House, the three stationed staffers reported 200 people had voted as of 2:15 p.m. About the same number of people had voted in nearby Harnwell at 2:30 p.m, with the two staffers reporting 194 votes and eight provisional votes cast. Staffers said they've seen bigger surges of voters coming between classes than usual.
Harnwell voting staffer and Northeast Philadelphia resident Mike Autenreith said he was surprised by the voter turnout.
"It's amazing to see so many college kids coming in and out and making sure they get out to vote," Autenreith said. "People never vote during the midterms."
Staffers at the busy Iron Gate Theatre location declined to give out exact numbers but said that at 2:40 p.m., they had already surpassed the numbers for the 2014 midterms. College junior Louis Lin, an election judge at Harrison, said their location surpassed the total 2014 election turnout by 11:15 a.m.
Houston staffers reported 550 votes were cast by 2:50 p.m.
Around 20 students stood in line waiting to vote at the ARCH location at 4 p.m., with students reporting a total voting time of one to seven minutes. At 4:15 p.m. the line started to grow, and by 4:25 p.m. the line was out the door, with around 40 students waiting.
The polling location at Vance Hall, which serves Du Bois College House and Rodin College House, had about 235 voters as of 4:45 p.m., according to a voting staffer.
The Iron Gate Theatre location had a longer wait time than ARCH by 4:55 p.m. Engineering senior Joanne Li said she experienced a 20 minute wait time, which took longer than her past voting experiences at Harrison.
As night fell, Quakers flocked to an Election Day celebration on the Harnwell Rooftop Lounge for the last three hours of open polls. At the event, which was co-hosted by nonpartisan student groups, representatives from Penn Leads the Vote offered to answer questions on the elections from their peers.
By slightly after 5 p.m., 700 votes had been cast at Houston, according to an election judge.
College freshman Kaday Kamara said casting her ballot at ARCH earlier in the day was her first time voting, which was exciting experience.
“I called my mom [afterwards],” Kamara said.
College Senior Ifrah Majeed said she voted absentee in Texas to support Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) over Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the Senate race. She added that she hopes eligible voters were aware of the importance of their vote and that she was concerned about turnout.
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