Richmond voters unprepared for ballot initiatives

Originally published November 12, 2012 in The Commonwealth Times

November 12th, 2012
Ryan Murphy
News Editor
Liz Butterfield
Assistant News Editor

Hundreds of VCU students and Obama supporters flocked to the streets of Richmond after major news networks began calling the 2012 election in Barack Obama’s favor around 11:30 p.m. On Nov. 6, a crowd gathered at the intersection of West Broad and Shafer streets, traffic was stopped and chants of “four more years” and “two terms” were audible for blocks around.

The crowd, led by students carrying a giant Obama/Biden campaign sign, proceeded to march east down Broad Street, through Monroe Park, through nearby neighborhoods and even into Cabell Library.

Cali Jackson, a social work major at VCU, declares herself to be extremely liberal and voted mainly on issues like Pell grants, health care and the economy this year.

“It’s exciting … I saw the mob running so I had to join in,” she said. Jackson joined in the celebration around campus to express her continuing support for Obama.

Participating student Zeynab Abdul was also very excited about running down the streets with other students after the results were announced.

“I love it… it shows the youth vote is so amazing and we actually make a difference,” she said. Abdul was happy Obama was re-elected so she wouldn’t risk losing her necessary financial aid for school, a reason that Obama’s policies attracted many of the student voters who celebrated election night.

Before the crowds took to the street, hundreds of students assembled in the Commons for a watch party. Students cheered or booed in the Commons Theater as CNN called states one way or the other.

VCU alumna Ashley Evans was just as excited as current students about the election results. She came to VCU on election night to be in the same place she was four years ago when Obama won the election in 2008 and a similar demonstration took the streets of Richmond.

“Our rioting is peaceful, it’s celebratory, people are happy,” she said, adding that she was overwhelmed by the VCU support post-election and felt proud to be a part of the experience.

“When you got so much love and spirit for your school, your city, your state, your country, what’re you going to do? You can’t hold it all inside,” Evans said about the swarm of students that took over West Broad Street after the announcement.

VCU Police, Richmond City Police and Virginia State Police stopped traffic and tried to direct the crowd to keep it near campus. There are currently no reports of injuries or arrests, and a broken window on North Pine Street is currently the only known damage caused by the crowd.

Mike Porter, spokesperson for VCU Police, confirmed that there are no reported arrests, injuries or property damage related to the crowd.

The group chanted pro-Obama slogans and marched for over an hour and a half before finally dispersing. Along the way, they stopped in Monroe Park twice, once congregating at and climbing on the little-used security building near North Laurel Street.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting in Virginia Wednesday morning, Obama looks to have carried the commonwealth by about 100,000 votes.

As the night wore on, highly populated areas in Virginia with high voter turnouts were forced to keep polling places open late, which delayed reporting from Democratic-leaning areas like Northern Virginia and Norfolk. Romney’s advantage, at one point around 10 percent, diminished to nothing until Obama finally pulled ahead, right around 11:20 p.m. when major news networks like CBS and CNN called the overall election in the president’s favor.

Final results Wednesday morning show Obama with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. Obama won both Ohio and Virginia, considered to be critical battleground states. Reports from Florida, another important swing state, say they are still tabulating votes, but the outcome in Florida won’t change the result of the Electoral College. Obama won the overall popular vote by about two percent.

In Richmond’s City Council elections, there were a number of tight races and surprising results. In the 5th District, Councilman Marty Jewell lost a three-way race to newcomer Parker Agelasto, a museum consultant and University of Virginia adjunct professor. Jewell has been on city council since 2005.

9th District incumbent Doug Connor also lost his race to Michelle Mosby, a salon owner. In the 1st District, an intensely close race looks like Councilman Bruce Tyler may have lost his seat to challenger Jonathan Baliles by just 24 votes. The final word on the 1st District may take awhile though — a recount is expected.

In the 2nd District, Charles Samuels was able to keep his council seat by earning 479 more votes than challenger Charles Diradour.

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