Oberlin students using early vote window

SHEFFIELD TWP. — Oberlin College senior Tess Yanisch said she’s worried about environmental issues and the rights of women, gay and transsexual people if Republican Mitt Romney is elected president.

“If Romney is elected, I think that will reverse,” said Yanisch, 21, of University Place, Wash.

That’s why she said she boarded a van early Thursday and voted for President Barack Obama.

After waits of up to eight hours in prior presidential elections, Oberlin College students are again taking buses and vans to the elections board to vote early.

About 430 students have signed up for the bus ride, and the college is picking up the cost, said college spokesman Scott Wargo.

Four buses were sent Thursday and five were scheduled today, along with an additional two buses Saturday and Sunday, he said.

Students including Yanish also arrived Thursday courtesy of a white van with an Obama sign in the window. All of those aboard said they were voting for Obama.

Rachel Young, 19, a sophomore from Bowling Green, Ky., said voting for the first time Thursday was very exciting.

“Now I feel I’m part of something greater,” said Young, an East Asian studies major. “People say a single vote doesn’t count, but it feels good to vote for what you believe in.”

Also voting for Obama was Tom Kearney, 20, a computer science major from Edina, Minn.

Kearney said his brother, Jack, was at Oberlin when Obama defeated Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and students celebrated on campus.

“He said it was a huge party,” Kearney said. “If Romney wins, I’ll probably stay in my dorm.”

As of Tuesday, 10,991 voters had cast ballots at the Board of Elections office and 546 of them — about 5 percent — have been from Oberlin, according to Paul Adams, director of the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Adams said the elections board has made some changes in recent years in Oberlin precincts in hopes of alleviating lines on Election Day.

Students are being encouraged to serve as “text out the vote” captains and send on-the-spot messages urging friends to vote, according to Sean Para, campaign co-coordinator for Ohio PIRG’s nonpartisan New Voters Project and a freshman at Oberlin College.

This year, students also encouraged students to register to vote through Oberlin Young Voters, said student Molly Brand, who heads the group.

She said a campaign advertisement for Obama featuring HBO “Girls” creator and Oberlin alumna Lena Dunham talking about her “first time” voting also has been widely seen.

“Because of its history, Oberlin College draws more students who are inclined to be (politically) active,” Brand said, adding the group registered about 1,800 students to vote.

Oberlin was one of the first colleges in the United States to admit blacks and women, and its politics have traditionally been progressive.

Adams said 1,173 new voter registrations since Aug. 1 came from Oberlin, and a large part were probably students. That figure beats the 1,131 new registrations from Elyria.

Some of the 1,800 registrations brought in by the Oberlin Young Voters were probably duplicate registrations, which explains why only 1,173 new voters were registered, Adams said.

Oberlin College student Nick Miller estimated that “several dozen” Oberlin students may vote for Romney or Gary Johnson, the libertarian in the race.

Republicans and libertarians are so scarce at Oberlin College they share a club called the Oberlin College Republicans & Libertarians, said Miller, 22, of Grafton, who leads the group.

Miller said he plans to vote for Johnson, saying, “I refuse to be complicit in the destruction of the country, and that includes Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.”

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or [email protected].