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May 14, 2016

Political Science department hosts an election results viewing party

Courtesy of suttonhoo.blogspot.com.

On Tuesday night, the Political Science department sponsored an Election Results Viewing Party in the Cape Cod lounge. While students and professors waited for the results to come in from the polls (some waiting more anxiously than others!) the Political Science department, and Google, sponsored a number of free raffles for attendees. Some of the prizes included Political Science coffee mugs, UMass polling t-shirts, a gift certificate to Amherst Books, and even a few highly coveted UMass sweatshirts. While I wasn’t one of the lucky winners, the results party was a great time. There were many food and drink options, and tables were set up around the room to encourage people to chat. Professors were mingling and talking to people about different issues and Mission Improvable performed early in the night, entertaining the crowd with a great improv show.

Once the polls closed and predictions started to trickle in, things began to heat up. There were two television screens and one big screen showing the different results. As Mitt Romney’s electoral vote count increased and Barack Obama’s remained low, I think it would be fair to say that a number of people in the room were nervous. However, the night was still young and there were lots of votes to be counted. When it was announced that Elizabeth Warren had been elected to represent Massachusetts in the Senate (making her the state’s first female senator!), the room erupted into cheers. People seemed to be far less anxious at that point, and even seemed to be jubilant.  As a Political Science major, it was great to be around people who cared as much as I did about this election.

As results continued to come in and CNN began to make predictions of which state would go which way, the number of people in attendance shrunk, but with raffles continuing, spirits remained high. None of the states that CNN was giving to either candidate were much of a surprise. People continued to talk and many people were live-tweeting the results. It’s amazing to think about how different this election was from the one in 2008, largely in part because of the rise of social media. From being able to find out election results and historical election facts on Facebook, to seeing pictures of Florida polling lines at 11 pm on Twitter, technology had an enormous influence this election. This was a good thing because it meant people were more informed, but I think it was also negative in that people could post something so quickly that they wouldn’t even think about. I saw so many negative posts about both parties on Twitter that it disgusted me. Even after the winner of a specific contest was clear, people online continued to badmouth the other candidate. People supporting both parties were guilty of this. It’s an inevitable result of social media, but I still found it frustrating, and from talking to people at the event, they did too.

Around 11:30, when CNN announced their prediction that Barack Obama had been elected for a second term, the energy in the room was palpable. People were screaming, jumping up and down, and hugging people they didn’t even know. It was probably one of the most electric things I have ever experienced. To be in a room with people who felt so passionately about his reelection, and were so happy to see that happen was amazing. It was definitely a moment that made me so proud to have voted for the first time and to play a role in making that happen. Thanks to the Political Science department for putting on this awesome event – it was so much fun!

Eleanor Harte can be reached for comment at eharte@student.umass.edu.

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