A few hundred San Diegans gathered in Golden Hall Tuesday night to watch as results from national, state and local elections rolled in on three projection screens with real time vote tallies. Outcomes on everything from California’s state propositions to school board races to the highly contested mayoral and presidential elections were shown.
“This is a much earlier arriving crowd, it’s a much bigger crowd, and it’s the youngest crowd that I’ve seen,” said John Gaughen, a 20-year volunteer with the San Diego Registrar of Voters at election central. “The number of people in middle school, high school, college years is much greater. The mix is much younger than I’ve seen it before. It’s really a nice thing.”
There was a line outside before doors opened at 7 p.m., and by 8:30 Gaughen said noise levels and crowd numbers had reached what he typically wouldn’t see until 10 o’clock. At that point, he said candidates start to circulate in the Hall for interviews with the 10 or so television and radio outlets on the perimeter of the room, and crowd numbers tend to increase.
Some groups and individuals were present to cheer their candidates and issues on to victory while others simply wanted to see the democratic process at work. Rick Baugh, Scoutmaster at Santee Troop 148, said about 12 boys from the troop came to watch the results unfold.
“We brought scouts out so that they can get the experience of what goes on in politics a little bit,” Baugh said.
Baugh said he has come to Golden Hall on election night before, and the atmosphere tonight was about the same as past years, though he said presidential elections always garner a bit more excitement.
Proposition 35, which increases sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions and requires sex offenders to disclose Internet activities and identities, was passing with a large margin of success, and a group of supporters were at Golden Hall to celebrate.
“Well, we are part of a group, Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, which works on preventing human trafficking. We are here to root for Proposition 35,” said Marisa Ugarte, founder and executive director of the BSCC, who said she wasn’t concerned about the proposition passing.
Even with the success of the proposition, the night was not a total celebration. Ugarte was still wishing that Nathan Fletcher, a candidate she would have voted for “with her eyes closed,” had been on the ballot for mayor, and expressed concerns about going forward with the passed proposal.
“The thing is, everything has a cat’s tail, OK,” Ugarte said. “So the cat tail with Proposition 35, is when we start getting the money, I don’t like the agency that is going to handle the money: Cal-EMA. So that’s the only thing that’s worrying me.”
Worry wasn’t the dominant descriptor of Golden Hall however, as the room periodically broke out in chants as results were finalized and candidates became victors.
About a dozen cops circulated throughout the crowd, which Elvira Vargas, an election processing supervisor, said was large enough that people had to be turned away due to space constraints. The atmosphere quieted down as people started filtering out around 11 p.m.
San Diego’s election central has been headquartered in Golden Hall for 34 years, since 1978, with the exception of the 2010 election when many candidates chose to boycott the location because of a labor dispute.
Gaughen said this tradition will continue for the foreseeable future.
“When I talked to my supervisors and Registrar of Voters this evening, it looks as if, assuming that the city doesn’t redevelop the land, the plans are to be back here again,” Gaughen said.