By Michelle Fitzsimmons
City News Editor
Santa Cruz caught election fever on Tuesday.
Registration in the city reached above 148,000. When polls closed at 8 p.m., 90 percent of the city’s eligible voters were expected to cast their vote in this historic election.
City Hall bustled all day with voters, new and experienced.
“I haven’t ever seen this many people vote at one time,” said Jay Bixon, a Santa Cruz resident and Obama campaign volunteer.
Tricia Webber, the coordinator for Santa Cruz polling sites, was visibly stressed about the huge voter turnout, but positive about the voting process.
“I think it’s going very, very well,” she said. “There are a lot of voters excited about this ballot and excited about this election.”
Most who ventured to vote in person said they felt a weight off their shoulders after exiting the polls.
“It’s a relief to be able to vote,” said Donna Deiss, a resident whose arm was broken when she was arrested last May. “There’ve been a lot of things going on in the community and government. We’ve been counting down the days for change.”
Groups of people gathered at many of the city’s major intersections, waving banners and bolstered by honks from cars driving by.
Trinidad Castro, an educator who has worked at UC Santa Cruz and now works in public education, held two signs opposing Proposition 8 at the corner of Water Street and Pacific Avenue.
“Personally, this is the most important issue,” he said, nodding toward his posters. “Even if this passes, I won’t be able to have my partner here because he’s in Belgium. We can’t be together because of immigration, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
She’aShawnna Egling, a Santa Cruz psychic, said she saw Propositions 4 and 8 as key in this election.
“Prop. 4 will give hope to our young people,” he said. “And Obama, because adults need help too.”
While encouraging voter participation, Egling maintained concern about the validity of the election process.
“Remember, keep your [voting] sticker,” Egling said. “There’s a number you can call to make sure your vote is counted. It’s a voter’s right.”
Bob Ackerly, a veteran and broadcaster at SCTV, said he voted, but does not trust the election officials.
“They won’t give me a copy of my voting ballot,” he said. “The powers that be don’t want to be honest.”
Local Brent Dixon said it felt good to vote, but echoed Ackerly’s misgivings.
“[Voting] was interesting,” he said. “Here they don’t give you a receipt, like they do at the bank. They don’t give you one when you vote with a paper ballot. And you have to make sure you sign it, otherwise they won’t count it.”
Analysts projected the youth vote as a major factor in the outcome of this election. Ira Goldenring and three other UCSC students, all first-time voters, held “Obama ’08” posters at the entrance to the school on Tuesday afternoon.
“Voting was an empowering experience,” Goldenring said. “I voted in the primaries for Hillary, but [my friends] convinced me to convert.”
Students voted with specific issues in mind, they said.
“The economy is the most important issue in this election,” Mia Ragent said. “Before it was the war — now it is the economy.”
Goldenring said his priority was rebuilding the image of the United States in the world.
“It is important to change how the world perceives us,” Goldenring said.