Election Reaction: Peggy Flynn says students ‘do right’ by democracy and Stevenson College

Peggy Flynn awarding a winning bid during the 2022 Homeless Garden Project auction
Peggy Flynn in her role as auctioneer.
(Via Anna Hattis)

Democratic Party activist Peggy Flynn spent Election Day helping at the polls at UC Santa Cruz and was amazed by the turnout — and the enthusiasm of young voters. Unfortunately, she writes, some students arrived too late to vote. She thinks local election officials could have done a better job of informing students and the community about voting opportunities before Election Day.

They came out by the hundreds. Literally.

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From midafternoon to closing time on Election Day, UC Santa Cruz students (and some staff and faculty) came out to vote. Their numbers grew from 25 or so around lunchtime to several hundred in Stevenson College as the time grew near to close the polls. The majority of students were same-day voters, meaning they had to register first in Santa Cruz County before they received a ballot.

Students stood in the off-and-on rain, the line at times as far back as the steps leading to the parking lot, the atmosphere upbeat as groups of friends laughed and talked loudly, while others stood quietly reading or listening to music via earphones. Once they crossed the threshold into the actual polling station, they separated into lines of those already registered and ready to vote, versus those needing to register or reregister. A few came with the ballots they received in the mail, and were anxious.

I was impressed by their determination to stand in line for up to an hour, and sometimes even longer, with not a single complaint about the process or any confusion if one had been in the wrong line, or the rain, or anything. I was even more impressed by the sense of urgency some expressed to the volunteer poll workers as the 8 p.m. poll closing time got closer and closer.

Per state law, one of the election volunteers boomed out to the crowd at 8 p.m. on the dot, “The polls are closed.” And another scampered to the end of the line. If you’re in line at 8 p.m., you get to vote, and at least 10 people who came around 8:15 were disappointed to learn they couldn’t vote. This time.

Santa Cruz County elections staffed the polling station for three full days before election Tuesday, but very few of the hundreds of students who came on Nov. 8 were aware they could have voted sooner. And stayed drier.

The election department could do more marketing on the campus to increase awareness of voting availability. I was an election volunteer helping at several polling stations and while some were open for 11 days, each had the most voters on Nov 8. Some voters said they preferred the tradition of voting in person or dropping off a ballot, but many, like the students, didn’t know they could have voted earlier.

The Santa Cruz County Clerk’s office finished its vote count on Tuesday and certified the results of the Nov. 8...

I have no idea how many of those voting students have studied American history, but as I drove home that night from UCSC (in more rain and hail), I thought about Adlai E. Stevenson II, for whom the college is named.

I recalled my mom calling him an “egghead,” which I assumed was because he was baldish, but a friend at a watch party said it used to mean one was an intellectual and cared about politics. I knew Stevenson had run twice unsuccessfully for president, losing both times to Dwight D. Eisenhower. That’s about all I recalled.

I researched and read that night and loved this quote from his son Adlai Stevenson III, “For my father, the purpose of democracy was not winning power but informing the people, so they could make sound judgments on issues and on candidates.”

I think he would have been proud of those students who showed up at Stevenson College to vote and participate in democracy.

Peggy Flynn has been a lobbyist, a technical writer and editor, a grant writer, a farmer, a sheep shearer, and a Peace Corps volunteer (Botswana 2013-16). Her new gig is auctioneering for nonprofits (she goes by “Peggy, Queen of Riches”). She has a deep commitment to civic engagement and is the co-president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Santa Cruz. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for 26 years. Her previous Lookout piece, “I’ve never talked about my abortion. It’s time,” appeared in May.

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