"Yes we can! Yes we can!"
These words were chanted by a spontaneous rally of some 200 students that formed on the Quad after president-elect Barack Obama's victory speech on Tuesday night.
Shortly after 11 p.m. on November 4, when the networks began to announce Obama as the projected winner, screams of joy reverberated across campus. Students darted out of dorms, sprinting around the Quad, jumping, yelling, and climbing trees.
Later, after Obama's victory speech from Grant Park in Chicago, a core of about 10 students carrying noisemakers and tiki torches formed on the Quad, chanting slogans from the Obama campaign. Soon, students began to pour out of the first-year dorms to join in the celebration.
"Before we knew it, there was an incredible crowd of people," said senior Shelly Barron, one of the initial participants in the rally.
The group, which eventually turned into the 200-person rally, marched from the Chapel to H-L library, then part of the way down Maine Street and back up to campus. Upon returning to Bowdoin around 1 a.m., some two-thirds of the crowd dispersed, while the rest gathered at the base of the school's flagpole on the Quad. More chanting ensued, and students began a rendition of the national anthem and "Amazing Grace." After that, most started to trickle back to their dorms.
"It was one of the most spontaneous things that's ever happened at Bowdoin," said senior Dzenana Lukovic, one of the students who started the rally. "It was one of the coolest things that I've experienced at Bowdoin."
According to Brunswick Town Clerk Fran Smith, more than 500 Bowdoin students voted early with absentee ballots. Although the total number of students who voted in Brunswick is not available yet, Smith said that she thinks that the number was "significantly higher than the 500 [who voted absentee]."
The College Democrats ran shuttles from campus to the polls on Tuesday. Co-president Claire Cooper '09 said that the organization lost count early in the day of how many students they transported, but she estimated that the number was more than 100.
"We were busy starting at 8 a.m.," Cooper said.
According to Smith, the total number of people who voted in Brunswick was just three more than it was for the 2004 presidential election. This year, just under 12,000 people voted in Brunswick. She said 5,000 people voted by absentee ballot, up from 3,400 in 2004. The total number of voters represents about 75 percent of registered voters in Brunswick.
Smith said that this election and the 2004 presidential election saw a larger voter turnout than in previous years.
"If I look back historically I would say [the voter turnouts for 2008 and 2004] are pretty high over time," Smith said.
"I don't believe anyone waited, even in the rush hour, more than half an hour," she said. Smith explained that short lines at the polls may have resulted, at least in part, from a higher number of absentee voters this election.
"I went at 11:30 [to vote], and there wasn't really a line at all," said Carina Sandoval '10, a Florida native who voted at Brunswick Junior High School. "Some of the local candidates were outside shaking our hands."
For the fifth presidential election in a row, Maine's Electoral College votes went to the Democratic presidential nominee. Republican incumbent Susan Collins defeated Democrat Tom Allen, a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1967, in the race for U.S. Senate. Maine voters from the first congressional district also elected Democrat Chellie Pingree to represent Maine in the U.S. Congress. Michael Michaud was re-elected to represent the second district of Maine.
On the state ballot, Maine voters came out in favor of Question 1, rejecting parts of a new law that would have changed the method of funding the Dirigo Health Program "through charging health insurance companies a fixed fee on paid claims and adding taxes to malt liquor, wine and soft drinks."
Voters came out against Question 2, which asked: "Do you want to allow a certain Maine company to have the only casino in Maine, to be located in Oxford County, if part of the revenue is used to fund specific state programs?"
Finally, the third ballot question, which concerned a $3,400,000 bond issue that would support drinking water programs, was approved.
Alex Cornell du Houx, a member of the Bowdoin Class of 2008 and a veteran of the Iraq War, was elected to represent District 66 in the Maine Legislature. Cornell du Houx ran as the Democratic candidate for the office and defeated Republican Jonathan Crimmins and Green Independent David Frans.
"I will be working to bring jobs and economic development through the Brunswick Naval Air Station redevelopment," Cornell du Houx said.
He added that quality health care, tax reform, spending control, and environmental sustainability were among his other top concerns.
According to an article published in the New York Times on Wednesday, the youth turnout for this election was up by 2.2 million from 2004. Furthermore, it reported that "young people voted overwhelmingly to send [Obama] to the White House."
Since the beginning of his campaign, Obama has found particular support at Bowdoin. In July of 2006, Merry Segal '08 started a petition on Facebook to encourage Obama to run for president. By February 2007 when Obama announced his candidacy, more than 50,000 people had joined the Facebook group. Segal became the executive director of the official student wing of the Obama campaign, and she later became one of fewer than 15 national co-chairs for Obama's campaign.
Now that the election is over, Cooper said that the College Democrats plan to take the rest of the semester easy. She said that her organization will start planning for next spring, maybe trying to bring a speaker to campus.
Jeff Jeng '09 said that the College Republicans plan to continue to "do what we usually do."
"We're going to invite speakers to the campus and continue to provide a different view and diversify the political dialogue," Jeng said.
Jeng said that he and the other College Republicans were not surprised by Obama's victory.
"I personally didn't find it too surprising; we were expecting that Obama would win, and we were somewhat surprised that McCain didn't lose by that much, in terms of the popular vote," he said. "We're also glad that we've maintained the filibuster in the Senate."
"Obviously we're not happy about it, but it wasn't the worst-case scenario by any stretch of the imagination on our side," Jeng said.
Reflecting on Tuesday evening, Brianna Cornelius '09 said "There was a lot of emotion that night."
"As an African American, and as an American citizen, to see history change and to see how far we've come...To be able to see things change and to be able to be a part of it was really exciting," she said.
Cornelius said she has high expectations for Obama's presidency.
"I am hoping that not only can he bring this country back to where it needs to be economically, but that he would genuinely instill a sense of hope," Cornelius said.
"Essentially, [I hope] that he could bring us all together and that we could be a real America," she said.
-Nat Herz contributed to this report.