Hundreds of students attended the fifth presidential election viewing party held on Tuesday night by the UCSD political science department, where students gathered at Price Theater to watch the voting results come in. The free event featured a competition to predict election outcomes and a brief discussion on political unity. The department’s graduate students answered questions on topics like the swing states or California propositions.
The viewing party began at 6:45 p.m. with a long line of students filing into Price Center Theater and picking up pizza and drinks along the way. After almost everyone was inside, representatives from the Office of the Ombuds, which offers dispute resolution services, attempted to start a discussion on the events of the election season. However, the discussion quickly ended when students were noticeably distracted as they watched the poll returns. The event continued until around 9:15 p.m., with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) giving a brief speech before the party’s end where she expressed her support for then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and announced the winners of the prediction contest.
Chair of the political science department Thad Kousser told the UCSD Guardian that the purpose of the event was to foster student interest in the election and politics in general.
“Every year, we are always reminded of how passionate and informed UCSD students are about the election, and we want to give them a place to come together as a community to watch history together,” Kousser said.
Sophomore Tobias Schumacher, a German exchange student, attended the event because he was interested in experiencing an American election viewing party.
“[I] wanted to see how an election party actually is, especially in such a historic vote because I feel like this is the kind of vote that divides the country into two,” Schumacher explained.
The event was supposed to be held at the Great Hall in I-House, but because the number of students who registered with Eventbrite to attend reached maximum capacity, it was relocated to Price Center Theater.
While the event has garnered good turnout in the past, Kousser noted that the amount of student interest this year was unexpected.
“We have had 300, 400 people for Obama’s elections where the youth vote was really energized, but I think this campus has changed,” Kousser stated. “It has become more political. Groups like the [Student Organized Voter Access Committee], our organizing students, [the California Public Interest Research Group] and the Guardian’s excellent political coverage are getting more students motivated, and I think this is becoming a more and more political campus.”
SOVAC Executive Director Liam Barrett said that he hoped the high attendance numbers were indicative of strong UCSD voter turnout.
“I would hope that everyone who turned out for this event voted,” Barrett told the Guardian. “If that’s true, then that means we have had better turnout than we have had in some years. Just running around between the polling stations, turnout looked really good for UCSD’s precincts at least.”
Kousser added that the election is especially important for college students because “whether it’s free college tuition, what loan rates will be, what your job prospects will be, what kind of environment you will inherit, all the issues that are driving this presidential race mean more to an 18-year-old than they do to a 42-year-old.”