By BRITTANY De VRIES
“Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen, I’m your hope captain,” he said.
He put the key in the ignition of the Young Democrats white van on Election Day.
An Obama icon magnet that was attached to the van door slid aside as UMW students opened the door and took a seat.
Vice President of Young Democrats Mik Bodnar was volunteering his driving skills to take students to the polls all day Tuesday.
“It’s surreal that Election Day is finally here,” Bodnar said.
The Young Democrats organized van transportation to the polls for students, leaving on the dot every hour from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Junior Matthew Guckenberg, Young Democrats treasurer, emphasized the rides were for everyone, regardless of political opinions.
“Not just democrats are showing up,” Guckenberg said. “We’ve had republicans coming, needing a ride because no other organization was doing this.”
Kelly McCain, senior and College Republicans chairman, said she voted for the Republican Party via absentee ballot.
“All of the candidates in the Republican Party reflect my views toward the country,” McCain said.
McCain, who stood at the polls with the other members from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, said her most important concerns were smaller government, low taxes, healthcare reform without going universal, and national security.
On the ride over to the Dorothy Hart Community Center, Precinct 2 in the Fredericksburg city district, senior Hilary Lufkin and junior Augusta Canfield conversed about voting for the first time.
“Obama, Obama!” they both yelled out when asked for whom they were voting in the election.
Canfield commented that her personal beliefs were more important than voting for one particular party.
“I don’t vote necessarily because someone is a Republican or a Democrat,” she said. “We need to restructure what is going on in our society.”
Canfield said that she spoke to her 86-year-old grandmother earlier that day.
“She said that she has never witnessed such a heated debate. I think that gives some insight as to what is going on here,” Canfield said.
“There is a real motivation among voters this year to get out there and vote. They really feel they can make a difference in this election.”
Lufkin traveled to Richmond over the weekend to vote in her hometown, returning Tuesday morning to Fredericksburg.
Mik Bodnar sent his absentee ballot back to California a couple of weeks ago.
“My ballot was lost in the mail for awhile. I kept calling up Dad all worried and asking if he had gotten it yet,” Bodnar said.
Though the heated election had people of all ages standing in line for hours all over the country, locally the wait was much less tiresome.
“I only waited for five minutes or so,” said freshman Joshua Christopher.
Christopher, surprised to find that no one was pressuring him to vote a certain way while waiting in line, referred to his first presidential vote as “wicked.”
“I voted for Obama,” he said. “I’m a black person, but that has nothing to do with it. I like his methods for the economy and housing. I come from a big family, so having someone thinking about family and middle income [and] having someone in office thinking about me is really important.”
Junior Jana Pickart was proud to be a woman voter in her first-ever election.
“I am voting because women fought for the vote for 75 years and I’m proud to be a part of that,” Pickart said.
For Pickart, the environment, the Power Vote campaign, Women’s issues, the economy, and “getting us out of Iraq” were her biggest concerns.
Freshman Sjrsten Siegfried chose a third party candidate when she voted because neither of the major candidates appealed to her.
“I voted Libertarian because I found both major party candidates to be a little too flip-floppy,” Siegfried said.
College Republicans member and senior Elizabeth Jennings, who traveled to Northern Virginia in Mclean to vote electronically with her sisters, was exhilarated by participating in her first presidential election.
“It was kind of crazy,” Jennings said. “There was a huge rush that went through me that thought, this isn’t a vote for a student body president. This is for real- this is the real deal.”
Jennings said her cousin had asked her what the three most important issues for her for the next four years.
“I answered that they were the economy, the war, and my future job,” she said.
Senior Kristin Astley was also exhilarated about her first presidential vote.
“Oh my god, I wanted to piss my pants,” Astley said. “It’s really exciting to be able to voice your opinion and make a difference.”
Astley, a Massachusetts resident, said she reregistered to vote in Virginia and went to the New Walker Grant Middle School on Cowan Boulevard to cast her ballot at 5 p.m.
She said this year was very different from elections in the past.
“A lot of young people are getting out today,” Astley said. “The hip hop community, black people, minorities, and celebrities are really pushing this election. We all know the results are going to have a huge influence on our futures.”
Many students were happy to hear that many businesses, including Starbucks, Chik-Fil-A, Krispy Kreme, and Ben & Jerry’s, were handing out free food and coffee in support of Election Day.
“Chik-Fil-A was a mob scene,” Astley said.
Kelly McCain said that the College Republicans were out at the polls in Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania all day Tuesday to motivate people in line.
“We had club members at ten different precincts,” McCain said. “UMW students all seem to be extremely involved in some way, shape, or form for this election.”
Young Democrats and junior Natalie Weiner said that the registrar in Virginia recently passed a law permitting students to register to vote on campus.
“They decided that students can register with their campus address, because students live here [for] the majority of the year,” Weiner said.
Guckenberg was most impressed by the political movement young voters created in their hard work preceding and during Nov. 4.
“The last time it had happened this way was back in the 60s,” Guckenberg said. “It’s a cool movement to be a part of.”
Republican supporter Elizabeth Jennings said the election result “was disheartening.”
“I am trying to see the silver lining,” Jennings said. “I hope Obama does what he promises to do, and that he wins the war on terror. No matter what, we are all in this together, and you don’t fight against the cause.”