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Haverford Students Turn Out for Off-Year Elections

On November 5, which fell on a chilly but clear Tuesday two weeks ago, Haverford students dribbled down-campus, aided by signs, to vote in the November 5th Pennsylvania general municipal elections.  

This was only the second year that students have been able to vote on campus. Prior to the establishment of a polling station in the Facilities building, students had to vote at Coopertown Elementary School, which was reachable only by a half-hour walk or by taking one of the college-provided shuttles.

Members of both Haverford Votes and Haverford Democrats manned tables outside the polling station, distributing snacks while volunteers from the various campaigns offered leaflets or made last-minute pitches for their candidate. Both students and non-student residents of the precinct steadily trickled in over the course of the day until the polls closed at 8:00PM.

When the dust settled, the results included several electoral surprises, throwing many for a loop. One bellwether was the outcome of the Delaware County Council elections—the Council is a five-member body that “is responsible for all legislative and administrative functions of the County government,” including the power to pass ordinances and set budgets. Long entirely Republican, in 2017 Democrats won two of the five seats and this year snagged the remaining three seats. This completes a dramatic shift that has seen Delaware County become bluer and bluer over time: local and state-level elections have begun to match the county’s presidential vote, which has been Democratic since 1992.

In one interesting turn of events, Democratic candidate and attorney Jack Stollsteimer, who was a leading figure in the fight for the Haverford precinct polling place to be moved to an on-campus location, was elected as the Delaware County attorney general, replacing the incumbent Republican Katayoun Copeland.

These outcomes were fueled in part by high turnout. At Haverford in particular, turnout hit levels not usually seen outside major election years. Approximately 52% of all students registered to vote on campus did so, a full 12% above Delaware County’s average of 40% and 20% higher than the student body’s 32% participation in the equivalent 2017 municipal elections.

The high turnout bodes well for the next two elections that will take place on Haverford’s campus, both of which command more interest. The first is the Democratic primary, which requires voters to select one Democratic Party candidate from among the many jockeying to take on incumbent President Trump. The unusually large field includes national frontrunners Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as a host of over a dozen other candidates. Scheduled for April 28th, Pennsylvania’s will be a closed primary, or one in which only registered members of the Democratic Party can participate. That registration deadline is March 30th, 2020.

The second election is the 2020 general (presidential) election itself, which will take place on November 5th, 2020, in just under one year’s time. Pennsylvania will figure prominently in the general election, as President Trump secured his 2016 victory in part through winning the state by just ~0.72% of the vote. The 2016 election saw participation by 88.8% of all students on campus registered to vote, and as both the Republican and Democratic parties compete to take Pennsylvania, the campus is likely to see a lot more excitement, anxiety, and activity—perhaps we can boost turnout even higher.

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