On voting day, students turn out in limousines

The flyers reminding everyone of Election Day are everywhere. Campaign workers for Matt Beato roamed the halls early in the afternoon on May 6, knocking on doors. Campaign posters for the candidates are posted up on bulletin boards. And limousines are driving students to the polling station at 401 North Boundary Street.

Today is City Council election day in Williamsburg. Today, for the first time, students are a large percentage of registered voters. Running for the three open seats are Matt Beato ’09, incumbent Paul Freiling ’83, former Mayor Gil Granger ’57, Vice Mayor and economics Professor Clyde Haulman, Judy Knudson and Terence Wehle ’77.

Ths afternoon a black limousine wound its way around the parking lot outside Yates Hall and came to a stop next to the baseball backstop.

Student Assembly Undersecretary for Student Voting David Witkowski ’11 is sitting with his back to the driver, and begins to quickly brief the students who pile in on what they will face when they arrive at the polling station. He gives them directions to walk there from the dropoff point at the Amtrak Station, located a few blocks away and where it is easier for the limousines to turn around.

He makes sure they know the physical address of their dormitories, and verifies that they have some sort of identification. He adds that the limo will be back to pick them up as soon as they are done.

He then offers each student a copy of the Flat Hat’s guide with the candidates and their positions.

“We decided it would get people out,” Witkowski said of the limousines, “and get people talking.”

According to SA Vice President Zach Pilchen ’09, three limousines were rented from Affinity Limousine out of Hampton. For $1,200, students would be escorted to the polling station from three separate locations on campus: the University Center Terrace, the Dining Commons, and Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall.

For each of the three limousines, an SA member is assigned to make sure students are prepared to vote. Other SA members hold signs directing students to the pick-up and drop-off locations.

The limousines were rented using funds from the SA’s Off-Campus Account, Pilchen said. This is separate from the Student Activities Account, and funds for the Off-Campus Account are generated by fundraising.

At the Community Building at 401 North Boundary Street, poll-workers said that students have been showing up steadily all day to vote.

City Council candidates, including Beato, were outside the Community Building to thank people for voting.

“It’s going really well,” Beato said. “I feel really confident.”

Beato declined to comment on the SA’s efforts to get out the vote that day.

Beato’s role as a former SA Senate Chairman led some in the community to question the timing of his campaign, as it has coincided with an increased effort on the part of the SA to register students and get out the vote.

At a Neighborhood Council meeting on April 5, Chairman Jim Joseph publicly criticized Beato’s campaign and the voter registration drive as using votes “as a weapon.”

Although Beato may enjoy support from many students at the College, the SA has tried to make their get-out-the-vote campaign non-partisan.

One person holding a sign outside the Commons directing students to the limousines was asked by Witkowski to remove a pro-Beato sticker he was wearing, as it conflicted with the non-partisan position of the SA.

Polling stations close at 7 p.m. tonight. The limousines will continue shuttling students until 6:50 p.m.

__Check back at flathatnews.com later tonight for further coverage of the election, including the winners. Results are expected at 9 p.m.__


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