Students ride election roller coaster

Many GW students went to bed early Wednesday morning thinking a new president had been elected. Hours later, they awoke to realize that the nation is still unsure whether Vice President Al Gore or Gov. George W. Bush will serve as the 43rd President of the United States.

This election is wild, it went one way and then the other and we may not know who won the presidency for a while, freshman Jonah Zinn said.

When Bush was prematurely announced the winner at about 2:20 a.m. Wednesday, emotions ran high across campus.

You saw some people crying, some cheering, said Anjan Choudury, president of the GW College Democrats, who emceed an election night party at the Hippodrome. At least they have an opinion. That makes a difference.

Throughout the night, news networks predicted winners in every state based on exit polls and early vote tallies, but retracted several projections, including Florida and New Hampshire, because they did not reflect actual vote totals.

Early in the evening networks credited Florida’s 25 electoral votes to Gore. A few hours later, the networks retracted the call. Then, at about 2:20 a.m. Wednesday, major television stations announced Bush won Florida and declared him the winner.

A couple hours later, the total vote difference between Gore and Bush in Florida was a few thousand votes, out of almost 5 million cast ballots, causing networks to declare the race too close to call again.

Florida is recounting votes with the results of the general election hanging in the balance. Many students said they woke up Wednesday surprised.

I stayed up the whole night to see that Bush was declared the winner and woke up to find that wasn’t true, freshman Jon Luwisch said. The media needs to organize itself and reform so they don’t mislead the public.

At the Hall on Virginia Avenue, the Campaign 2000 Living and Learning Community sponsored an election party in the lobby, attracting about 200 residents throughout the night. Students were glued to multiple televisions broadcasting CNN and three other major news networks.

Excitement piqued at the top of each hour, when polls closed in each time zone, allowing networks to declare victory for the candidates in each state.

A flurry of cheers and phone calls followed the hourly announcements. Students, many watching the first presidential election they participated in, contacted their families to discuss their reactions.

Likewise, a campus-wide election party took place at the Hippodrome, which hosted hundreds of students throughout the night, according to Program Board President Seth Weinert.

We were taken on a roller-coaster ride all night with Florida going back and forth, causing a big crowd to stay until three in the morning, Weinert said. Students were excited to take part in an election that will go down as one of the closest in American history.

Hippodrome staff members worked into the early hours of Wednesday unsure when networks would announce final poll results. The Hippodrome staff pledged to stay open until a winner was called.

It’s been long and interesting, said Hippodrome staff member Logan Garrels, as he removed some banners from the walls.

It got me to follow the election and make some cash, Garrels said.

Students also watched the election results on big screen televisions in J Street.

As results continued to trickle in, many students considered the possibility that Gore could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College to Bush.

Some students said the election process is unfair.

If the majority of the people in this country voted for Gore then he should be the president because the government should respect the will of the people, freshman Kelly Pobanz said.

Students said they were fueled by the intensity of the race and passion of GW’s student body.

It’s a wonderful time to be in D.C. and it was great to see my fellow student reaction last night as the results came in, freshman Megan Robertson said. Most people think students in our age group are apathetic but after being on this campus the last 24 hours, I see a group of kids who really care about this nation.

As students filed out of the Hippodrome at about 2:30 a.m., after Bush was declared the winner by the major networks, Michael Furman, a freshman political science major and member of the CDs, said he was encouraged by student interest in the election.

It’s something we’ll only experience once (at GW), he said. That was really cool.-Rich Murphy and Tim Donnelly contributed to this report.

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