Read some on-the-ground dispatches from Chicago, Ill.; Boston, Mass; and New Haven, Conn. as the News covers Election Day 2012.
NEW HAVEN 11:18 p.m. — Students studying in Bass Library hear a message over the loudspeaker: “May I have your attention, please? The president has been re-elected.”
CHICAGO 11:18 p.m. — After a bitterly-fought campaign centered around President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy and the size of government, he has just been re-elected. Here at McCormack Place in Chicago, Ill., attendees are jumping arm-in-arm, and journalists are scrambling to hear and be heard. Several minutes ago, the president’s motorcade was seen on television headed toward the convention center, and the crowd is slowly quieting — if only relatively — in anticipation of his appearance. The campaign plays “Twist and Shout,” originally written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell and covered by The Beatles. But the screaming is deafening. — Michelle Hackman from Chicago, Ill.
CHICAGO 11:05 p.m. — Signs so far are pointing to a good night for the attendees of this Obama “victory watch” party, with several Democrats prevailing in tight Senate races across the country and major battleground states swinging for the president. The latest electoral count, 238-191 in favor of Obama, drowned out the music blaring in the background. The pre-programmed stream was just also interrupted to broadcast Massachusetts Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren’s acceptance speech. — Michelle Hackman from Chicago, Ill.
CHICAGO 9:36 p.m. — About 20,000 lucky ticket-holders have now made their way into the McCormack Convention Center, where President Obama’s “victory” watch party is well under way. While numbers blare in the background on a six-way split screen, the audience is being treated to a prepared video featuring remarks by President Barack Obama, the First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as musical guests No Doubt, Bruce Springstein and Florence and The Machine. When the president said in the video, “If you’ve still got hope, I’m asking for your vote,” the crowd went wild. — Michelle Hackman from Chicago, Ill.
BOSTON 9:21 p.m. — Earlier this evening, Craig Romney gave a speech at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to attendees at presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Election Night campaign event, saying that although “a lot of people thought this election was a foregone conclusion,” Romney’s campaign was vital and important for the country.
Upstairs and downstairs at the Center, people stand in huddled groups, discussing the elections returns being broadcast from a mix of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. Campaign volunteer Rocco Giodano told the News that Romney’s election headquarters in Boston was full of energy as staffers believed the election would be close.
“I think in general, since it’s such a close race, there’s just a lot of hope,” Giodana said.
The energy has been positive throughout, said one attendee from Texas, who added that the majority of people he spoke with believed there was a chance of victory. Conversations have revolved around Florida and Ohio, he added. — Cynthia Hua from Boston, Mass.
CHICAGO 6:28 p.m. — When asked about how he thought President Obama has changed in the past four years, Hyde Park resident Ray Bailey, 76, laughed and joked that the biggest change was that his “hair got a lot grayer.”
But Ishmael Coye, one of the owners of the Hyde Park Hair Salon on South Blackstone Avenue in Hyde Park, has noticed President Obama’s hair much longer before his first term as president. One of the owners of the barber shop President Obama regularly frequented from 1992 up until he was elected president in 2008, Coye said that his barber shop is now famous because of President Obama’s patronage.
“We’d talk about what sports teams he liked and the teams he thought were going to make it to playoffs, but never politics,” Coye said. “He’s really connected to the common person.”
However, Zariff (who goes by just his first name), President Obama’s personal barber through all these years, was nowhere to be found in the shop: he is out today so he can give President Obama a haircut some time today, said Coye.
To the unsuspecting outside observer, the barber shop looks like it’s actually closed tonight — the glass walls are covered in brown paper and one of the only visible signs is a sign supporting Obama’s re-election campaign. But inside, Coye and his family and friends are bustling around putting up lights and setting up a viewing party that he said will last nearly all night long, where they will later be joined by Zariff after he is finished giving the president his haircut. — Diana Li from Chicago, Ill.
CHICAGO 5:07 p.m. — Eight years later, members of the Catholic Theological Union proudly remember when Barack Obama cast his vote in the 2004 election at their polling station on South Cornell Avenue in Hyde Park. Obama won the Senate election that year and resigned when he became president in 2008.
“We love the fact that for a while at least, and maybe still now, the president has a photo on the credenza in back of his desk in the Oval Office of him coming out of the doors of the Catholic Theological Union [after having voted],” said Scott Alexander, associate professor of Islam at the Catholic Theological Union.
Melissa Mickey, who has lived in Hyde Park since the late 1960s, said she was present when Obama voted in the 2004 election at the Catholic Theological Union, adding that she could feel the “electricity.” She recounted one of Obama’s young daughters constantly asking her mother when they could finally leave the polling station.
Meanwhile, back at the Catholic Theological Union, receptionist Harrietta Holloway also mentioned her admiration of Michelle Obama.
“Mrs. Obama is fantastic, and I wish she were President instead: I like her elegance and her strong womanhood, and she has an ‘I can take care of myself’ attitude. I see the power in her,” Holloway said.
“After all, behind every powerful man is a woman.” — Diana Li from Chicago, Ill.
NEW HAVEN 4:48 p.m. — The line around the New Haven Free Public Library is still over an hour long, snaking around the corner and doubling up inside the building. Students huddle together for warmth as they read magazines, play with their phones and chat. Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 takes this opportunity to pass out a newsletter and meet her constituents. She says she has been there since 6 a.m., when the polls opened, and will likely remain so until they close at 8 p.m.
CHICAGO 4:41 p.m. — In the Obama campaign office in Chicago’s Loop district, nearly 80 volunteers are squeezed into a small conference room. They’ve been here since the wee hours of the morning, noshing on sometimes cold pizza and calling voters in nearby swing states, like Iowa and Wisconsin.
“We’re not just calling to ask if [voters] are voting,” one volunteer said. “We’re calling to help them make a plan to vote.”
She added that it’s been this packed — sometimes even more so — for at least the past four days. And there’s another campaign office just a block away.
When I asked the volunteer for her name, Sasha, a deputy field organizer, whisked me away. Apparently the press isn’t allowed to distract volunteers from their Get-Out-The-Vote efforts. — Michelle Hackman from Chicago, Ill.
CAMBRIDGE 4:08 p.m. — Undergraduates on Harvard campus have been active in encouraging each other to vote via Facebook today, according to four students interviewed outside Quincy Hall. The online buzz mostly consists of students reminding each other to vote in a nonpartisan manner, said junior Christina Russell, despite the fact that the campus leans heavily toward the more liberal candidates, Democrat Elizabeth Warren for Senate and President Barack Obama.
Sophomore Dan Fitzpatrick said various political groups and residential houses on Harvard campus are hosting elections returns viewing parties tonight. But junior Tim Barry-Heffernan noted that “it’s still midterm season, so I imagine most [students] will watch on their computers.”
Fitzpatrick, who is a Republican, told the News that he feels “a bit lonely” as a conservative on a largely liberal campus.
“If the election goes Romney’s way tonight, it’s going to be a sad and angry campus,” Fitzpatrick said.
As of 3:06 p.m., 391 people had voted at Harvard’s Quincy Hall voting poll site, said election official Nancy Aiguier. — Cynthia Hua from Cambridge, Mass.
BOSTON 3:28 p.m. — Bars across Boston are preparing cocktails and “binders full of women” jokes for a night they say will be full of election fever.
Blue Inc., a bar in city’s financial district, is selling “Libertini” and “kick-ass” cocktails for Republicans and Democrats, respectively. The ‘Libertini’ consists of stoli sticky, blue curacao, basil and sour, and the ‘kick-ass’ has tequila, red sangria and domaine de canton.
Near Harvard, the bar Upstairs on the Square created an entire election menu in preparation for tonight and will be selling glasses of wine from their binder. Food items include “Green Party Pizza,” “Red Cook Right Wing Chicken Wings” and “PBS Smoked Big bBrd.”
The general manager, reflecting on a similar election party in 2008 said, “It was a lot of joy, a lot of happiness. You couldn’t get a seat in here.” He said he hopes this will make for another memorable night.
And hey, if you’re celebrating the election at Yale, you may want to make yourself a Libertini or a kick-ass. — Monica Disare from Boston, Mass.
CHICAGO 2:20 p.m. — Customers at Valois, an eatery on 53rd Street, are greeted by a colorful red, white and blue menu titled “President Obama’s Favorites” upon entering the restaurant. The eatery is packed today and a sign on the door warns people that the restaurant is being covered by media all day long.
Before Barack Obama became Senator Obama or President Obama, he was a regular at Valois. He still comes back occasionally, and last came six months ago, according to owner Spiro Argiris.
“Bo knows the economy. Bo knows foreign policy. Bo knows what the Americans want. Who is Bo?” asked Michael Sullivan, 50, who has lived in Chicago all his life. “It ain’t Bo Jackson — it’s Barack Obama!”
“He needs more time, more time,” added Corneal Crumpton, a Chicago resident who said the city was “sinking” before Obama showed up.
Four years just wasn’t enough, he said. And as the restaurant buzzed with conversations about Election Day, there was no hint of any nervousness or concern regarding the outcome of tonight’s election.
“You know what it feels like? It feels like Christmas,” Sullivan laughed. — Diana Li from Chicago, Ill.
CHICAGO 2:18 p.m. — Even in President Obama’s hometown — ground zero of Obama enthusiasm — the voters at this bustling polling place on West Washington Ave. are expressing mixed feelings about a second term for the incumbent candidate. Three voters in a row file out and proudly pronounce their votes for Romney.
“[Obama’s] getting nothing, nowhere. He just wants four more years to get a paycheck,” said Amy Mitchem. “He’s doing it for his own good! He wants money money money.”
Mitchem added that, in her view, Romney is not running for personal gain “because he has enough money already.”
But Valery Simanduyev, a taxi driver in the Hide Park area, disagrees. Simanduyev moved to Chicago from the Soviet Union 25 years ago, and he knows a real socialist when he sees one. Obama isn’t socialist, he told me — he just cares about poor people.
“In Germany, in Canada, in Israel, nobody pay for the doctors, nobody pay for the hospital! Here’s the only country where you have to pay for visit to emergency room,” he said.
I asked Simanduyev what he would do in case of a Romney Victory.
“I would drink,” he said, without missing a beat. — Michelle Hackman from Chicago, Ill.
CHICAGO 12:50 p.m. — Hyde Park resident Roxane Friedman showed up to Kenwood High School today to submit her vote, just as she did four years ago, only to find that the site was no longer a polling station.
After looking online, she realized that her correct polling site was the United Church of Hyde Park on 53rd Street, and went there instead. Redistricting earlier this year changed the polling locations for a number of voters, and although they were all sent updated voter registration cards with the addresses of their polling sites, people still are showing up to the wrong places to vote.
“Everyone got those voter registration cards but people rarely look at them, and it’s been a bit of a shock for a lot of people,” said Sharon Harris, an election judge at the church. “Some people come to vote before work and need to get voting out of the way, and it’s an issue.”
People who showed up to the church that were not registered as being in the precinct were asked to either fill out a provisional ballot or go to their correct polling site. According to election judge Rosalee Atkins, the Board of Elections will ultimately decide whether to accept these provisional ballots.
Hyde Park resident Carol Banks said her polling location also changed, and said that she noticed people facing confusion regarding their correct polling site. Banks, who used to be able to vote in the building she lived in, had to travel elsewhere to cast her vote this year.
As of noon today, five people have filled out provisional ballots at the polling center in the United Church of Hyde Park on 53rd Street, according to Atkins. — Diana Li from Chicago, Ill.
NEW HAVEN 12:44 p.m — The line to vote at the New Haven Free Public Library is over an hour long, according to one student waiting to vote.
Meanwhile, Atticus is giving away free bread to those with an “I Voted” sticker. Go vote and enjoy the taste of democracy!
BOSTON 12:28 p.m. — “I’m voting for Romney along with about 90 percent of my friends upstairs,” said a Boston banker taking a break from work at the Starbucks on the first floor of his building. Kevin Kouhig, a Romney supporter who came up from Louisiana, agreed that Romney is the right presidential pick. He said from a business perspective, the country is “broke” and he fears for our generation if Obama is reelected.
Romney love was also prevalent at the small businesses in Boston’s North End, an Italian section full of food and coffee shops only a few blocks from his headquarters. “You’d be surprised, you’ll see more Republicans here,” said Albe Alba, the owner of a fruit shop packed with cucumbers, pumpkins and apples. — Monica Disare from Boston, Mass.
CHICAGO 11:26 a.m. — The Starbucks on 53rd and South Harper Ave., in Obama’s hometown of Hyde Park, Chicago, is giving out free bracelets with the slogan “Let’s Create Jobs for USA” printed on the cardboard packaging in celebration of Election Day.
“Excitement here is even higher [than in 2008],” said Nicole Russell, a barista at the Starbucks. “Everyone’s waiting to see the outcome. Is Obama going to be re-elected, or is Romney going to get in there and mess everything up? We’ve gotta make sure we don’t have another Bush on our hands!”
Nikki Bunnitt, a fellow barista, added that no one here has been disappointed by the president’s term, and that “everybody knows” that Illinois isn’t a swing state and is in full support of Obama.
A customer not from Hyde Park asked her whether most people around here are supporting President Obama’s bid for re-election.
“Well, you are in Hyde Park – this is Obama nation!” Russell shot back. — Diana Li from Chicago, Ill.
NEW HAVEN 11:13 a.m. — The line to vote at the New Haven Free Public Library was over 45 minutes long and doubled back on itself twice. When a man working the polls suggested that Yalies return later in the day if they had classes coming up, several students took his advice and left. Others walked in, saw the line and immediately turned around. Several waiting voters joked that they were doing their “civic duty” by standing around for so long.
When asked what time he had come to work at the polls, one student at the front desk said he had been there before 6 a.m., even though he was working on a problem set until 3 a.m. “For God, for Country, and for Yale, right?” he added with a smile. — Maya Averbuch from New Haven, Conn.
BOSTON 10:47 a.m. — While reading a copy of today’s election edition of the Boston Globe this morning, Gerald Selvin of Brookline, Mass. told the News that waiting times were long at polling stations this morning, adding that “tonight, it’s going to be chaos” when voters visit the polls after work. Wait times for voting ranged from 30 minutes to an hour, and lines went around the block at voting polls around Boston, according to four Massachusetts voters interviewed on the subway this morning. Boston resident Jeff Buchlochi said he believes the huge turnout is due to excitement over the state Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown rather than the presidential election.
“[The high turnout] is typical of presidential election years, but the [hourlong] wait this morning was the longest I have ever experienced,” said Backbay resident Sheryl Carberry.
Boston city officials have urged residents to vote during non-peak hours rather than in the morning and early evening to avoid congestion at polling stations. — Cynthia Hua from Boston, Mass.