Election results in New Hampshire on January8 shocked poll watchers who predicted a strong win by Democratic Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. This Scholastic News Reporter conducted her own exit poll survey, talking with voters as they left the voting booth in Manchester's Ward 1.
Voters were asked, "How has this election season been different from the last two elections in 2004 and 2000?"
"I found myself more focused on tax and security issues and less on social issues than I had in the last elections," said Sandy Evangelista. Sandy is an educational assistant and a Republican. "I think there are more qualified choices for candidates than in the last elections (for both parties)."
Blossom Reid, an Obama volunteer, said she has a college-age child and is worried about job opportunities. "Growing up in one of the original black families in Manchester, [we saw that] the majority of kids had to eat at soup kitchens and had no education," she said. "I have a 23-year-old and worry because now college kids are unable to find jobs here. Many jobs are being done overseas."
Teacher Susan Raymond said she voted for John Edwards, who came in a distant third in the New Hampshire primary.
"The candidates were involved in more debates and have made personal appearances around the state much earlier it seems than in other elections," she told Scholastic News. "Their teams of volunteers seem to be more organized, and there has been a greater involvement of younger voters. These volunteers were well informed of each of their candidates' platforms and plans for bringing a change to Washington."
Another teacher, Ellen Hayes voted for Hillary. "I was very excited to finally get to vote for a woman who is highly qualified to be our President," she said. "There is a large field of candidates which gave us many choices. It was hard to narrow it down to just one. In years past, I had to choose who was the least offensive."
Clinton's position as a frontrunner who could possibly become the first woman President may have driven her supporters to the polls. Another teacher who voted for Clinton said all the campaign's were working hard to get voters out of their homes and into the voting booths.
"I received a lot more phone calls from both parties," she said.
On the Republican side, executive recruiter and political activist Siobhan Tautkus, said she voted for Mitt Romney. "There is a large field of candidates because there is no incumbent running," she said. "I like the diversity of candidates, and everyone is focusing on the severity of issues."
Computer expert Mike Murphy voted for John McCain. "Both sides have good candidates," he said. "I won't be upset with any candidate. Either side of the aisle would be fine with me."
Ron Paul supporter Bill Berry, a computer programmer, said this year differed from other races because of the increased media attention. "And all the volunteers i spoke to made sure that i felt good about the candidates. It was driven by making sure the individual felt good [about his or her vote]."
Small business owner Charlie Wienberg voted for McCain because he feels he is the most honest with the American people. "All the mailings and phone calls are a waste of money and time," Wienberg said. "If they are serious about the environment, they would stop the [mailings and signs] and save some trees."
Scholastic News also asked first-time voters: How did you feel to be a part of the voting process finally? Who did you vote for and why?
Ben Sink voted for Barack Obama because he feels that Obama has the vision it takes to lead the country. "It was nice finally be able to make an impact on my government in a tangible way," he said. "It was a very exciting experience."
Laura DelCamp voted for McCain because he understand the Republican principles more clearly. "It was kind of anti-climactic once I finally voted," she said. I had to wait in line for 15 minutes to register, and then they told me to go to the end of the long voting line. It was pretty cool to vote because i never had the responsibility to do this before. I was impressed by the record numbers [of people voting]."
Casey Godbout, who is 19, voted for Edwards. "I was overwhelmed by all of the people. I was glad to be part of the process," he said. "I did not decide whom to vote for until a few hours before i came."
Bryce Palmer voted for Barack Obama because he agrees with his ideas and felt inspired by his speeches. "My first experience voting was interesting," he said. He explained that he had to stand in line, fill out some forms and bring the forms over to a table, where he had to fill out more forms to bring to another table. Then he had to choose between being a Democrat or Republican. Once he chose and was ready to vote, he discovered that someone had stolen the markers from the first two booths he entered. "I then cast my vote by putting it into a fax-like machine and then went over to yet another table and told them i wanted to remain Independent. I felt entertained by all of the unique people there. I also felt kind of independent."
Amanda McLaughlin, who unfortunately did not get to vote in this primary, told this Scholastic News Reporter how she felt. "Since the 2004 elections happened during my freshman year of high school, i had been figuring that i would be able to vote in the primaries for the 2008 elections," she said. "The primary is traditionally held after my birthday, which is January 12. I was really looking forward to being able to contribute to the country's political system and to be part of the influential First Primary in New Hampshire." But with all the competition to retain that first-in-the-nation primary, the elections got pushed forward to four days before her 18th birthday. She was not able to vote after all. "Although i can appreciate the significance the first primary has to New Hampshire, I would appreciate actually being able to vote much more," she said.
This SN reporter witnessed the long lines of the polls and observed and interviewed some of the many voters who turned out for the record-breaking day in the history of the New Hampshire primary.
People with the last names beginning with C through E and R through Z had up to a 25-minute wait just to get inside at Ward 1. Large numbers of independent voters turned out, and after casting their ballots, they the had to stand in long lines to re-register as independents. Voters in this primary numbered 526,671 people, beating the previous record set in 2000 where 396,385 people voted.