At 8:00 p.m. PST on Nov. 4, while the country held its breath, Washington State joined California, Oregon and Hawaii as the four states that sealed a victory for Barack Obama.
According to MSNBC, Washington split 58 percent to 40 in favor of Senator Obama with 78 percent of districts reporting at the time. Whatcom County voted nearly 60 to 39 percent in favor of Obama, with 79 percent of precincts reporting at press time.
The four states combined to give Obama 77 electoral votes, pushing him past the required 270 and electing him as the first black president of the United States.
Shortly after Obama was announced the winner, Republican candidate John McCain took the stage in Phoenix to announce his concession. He graciously bowed out and assured the crowd of supporters that he would offer any assistance possible to help fix the country's problems.
“Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that,” McCain said. “It is natural tonight to feel some disappointment, but tomorrow we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.”
“We fought as hard as we could,” McCain continued. “And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.”
But before the final numbers had even come in, the campus was bustling with activity.
AS Elections Coordinator Ben Murphy and other members of Western Votes spent nearly 12 hours on Nov. 3 and 4 collecting ballots in VU 714. Over 1,500 voters submitted their ballots on campus. There had been a steady flow of people throughout both days, Murphy said. At times the amount of people outside grew so large that a line formed.
One by one, Western students and other registered voters took a step forward to participate and received an “I voted!” sticker. Many wished the staff working in VU 714 a happy Election Day.
Murphy was very excited with the trend of youth participation he's seen this fall.
“I'm happy about all the young voters I'm seeing,” Murphy said. “I'm hopeful that everyone's going to continue their civic duty through the spring,” he added as a reminder about the AS Elections coming this April.
Outside on Vendors Row, volunteers pitched students their ticket, seeking votes for Obama and incumbent Governor Chris Gregoire.
Whatcom County volunteer Mario Orallo-Molinaro was not embarrassed in the least to share his excitement about the possibility of an Obama presidency.
“It's amazing. To think, all of this hard work could help Obama win,” he said. “It's a good feeling. Honestly, I cried out of joy and hope for this country earlier this morning.”
Colleen Toomey, Assistant Coordinator of Obama Vikings, also spent a large part of her day out on Vendors Row pitching for her candidate. She remained cautiously optimistic about Senator Obama's chances.
“The election in 2000 was such a definitive mark on all elections,” Toomey said. “It's not over until it's over. We're not counting on any state and we want as much support as we can get.”
She hopes that when Obama takes office on Jan. 20, he will immediately begin work on his new policies.
“On his first day in office I would like to see a legitimate plan out of Iraq, some revisions to [the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001] in order to revitalize our educational system and I want to see progressive diplomacy with countries like Iran and North Korea,” Toomey said.
Edelmar Obenza, senior, said that he decided who he was going to vote for based on one candidate's oratory abilities.
“After listening to some of their [McCain and Obama's] speeches, you can tell who's talking about the issues and who's just badgering the other campaign,” he said.
He hoped that whichever man was to be elected would consider America's standing and image in the world.
“I hope they instill the perception that we're all going to have to change and sacrifice and contribute to make the world a better place,” Obenza said. “It's not just the president's work, it's all of ours.”
Freshman Carly Smith echoed the sentiments of many voters, participating in an election for the first time.
“It was exciting because I'm finally an adult during a historical election,” Smith said.
Though initially she wasn't sure who to vote for, Smith said that looking deeper into each candidate's policies helped her determine who she would be casting a ballot for.
“I looked at the issue that affected me the most,” she said. “I want to be a teacher, so I looked online at each candidate's education policies, read up a little bit and figured out who I was going to vote for.”
Equally as important as either candidate's policies are the historic implications that will soon play out. This election will be notable for its ability to create universal enthusiasm for voting.
Kyle Tate, senior, was surprised about the large turnout.
“I don't consider myself too political or into politics,” he said. “But I have to admit, seeing all these people [voting is] really cool.”
Western students should be proud that their voices made it into the pages of history.