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Looking back on another memorable Election Day

While I was in graduate school, at the University of North Carolina, I worked for the college paper, The Daily Tar Heel, as head of the copy desk. At a large university, student news is a mix of the serious and the silly. My absolute weirdest day in the newsroom was the day of the student body president election, which involved a little of both. Of the seven or eight candidates on the initial ballot, the top two vote-getters, let’s call them Matt and Lily since those were their names, were set for a run off.

In the initial election, Lily had won the most votes and seemed poised to take the run off too. Her boyfriend Alistair, though, was about to throw a wrench into her well-laid plans. (And while we’re on the subject, doesn’t Alistair sound like the name of someone bound to make trouble?) Alistair, who wasn’t even a student (he had graduated the year before), was hanging out at the library checking his e-mail during the voting period when he supposedly started talking to people around him and asking them to vote for Lily. According to the rules, neither the candidates nor their staff were allowed to campaign within 50 feet of a polling site, which in this case meant a computer terminal.

The student-run Board of Elections got wind of this and, later, of violations by Matt’s campaign, though none this serious. The run-off results, which had Lily winning by seven votes, were not certified that night, which left us at the paper to try to figure out what the hell happened. (It should go without saying that we blew deadline that night.) Eventually, the results were nullified, and a new run off was scheduled. Matt won easily. Lily may or may not have broken up with Alistair.

I don’t share this story on national Election Day to compare the hijinks of university politics to those at the presidential level. I do so only to point out that any active democracy is frought with weirdness, and one of the few things that a journalist can enjoy from time to time is to find herself in the middle of it.

That said, please go out and vote. And no matter what happens or how long it takes, stay in that line until your vote is counted.

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