The rooms of Whig Hall were draped in red-and-blue streamers Tuesday night as more than 100 students gathered to follow the results of the midterm elections.
The setup of the event gave students the ability to choose their preferred news network and the type of environment they were in: quiet, hectic, or somewhere in between. In the Senate Chamber on the second floor, CNN was displayed across four large screens in front of dozens of students munching on pizza and chips on the floor or in chairs strewn across the room. On the third floor, a handful of students had chosen to watch Fox News, while in the basement, a group of students sat on armchairs watching MSNBC.
As the evening progressed, some students were nervous. Some were calm. Some went back and forth.
David Basili ’21 of San Francisco was working on his computer science homework at about 10 p.m. while watching the election news on CNN. “[I’m feeling] nervous,” he said, “because the results are still too close to call.”
More upbeat was Akhil Rajasekar ’21, from Bethel Park, Pa, who followed the election on Fox News on Whig’s top floor. “I came in here expecting to lose the House,” he said. “That works out fine because it gives the president a scapegoat for when he doesn’t get his agenda through.”
Watching MSNBC three floors below, New Zealand native TJ Smith ’20 said her mood was better than it was during the 2016 elections. “I feel like we’re moving in the right direction again,” she said, referring to the Democrats winning control of the House. She was also feeling positive about how civic engagement was “more of a subject of discussion on campus” than it had been in 2016. “It was cool to watch people uniting over [the voting process].”
The watch party was part of Princeton’s Vote 100 initiative, a campaign that worked to encourage 100 percent of the undergraduate student body to “engage civically” in the 2018 election.
“We’ve been on the run since 5 a.m. encouraging people to get out to the polls,” said Caleb Visser ’20, the campus and community affairs chair for the Undergraduate Student Government and an organizer of the watch party. “It’s been a powerful day.”
While some students felt that the Vote 100 initiative was successful in increasing student voter registration, others believed its impact would be felt most strongly on certain parts of the campus population.
Zev Mishell ’22, from Northbrook, Ill., said he likely would not have voted in New Jersey if he had not registered as part of the Vote 100 campaign. “It probably has brought student voting up,” he said.
Diego Ayala ’22 of Los Angeles said he hadn’t heard of the initiative until he arrived at the watch party – “by which time I’d already voted,” he added with a smile.
Sungho Park ’22 of Pittsburgh said that although students “want everyone’s voice counted,” he felt that the initiative targeted students of a specific political orientation. “From what I’ve heard from friends who were here when Obama [was president], there wasn’t this massive movement to get students to vote — so I do think the Vote 100 initiative is to motivate the more liberal student voters,” he said.
When Democratic control of the House of Representatives was announced on CNN at 11 p.m., Whig Hall’s Senate Chamber was enveloped with the sound of students cheering. Fifteen boxes of pizza arrived just in time.