Voting at the U: Inside the Huntsman Center

The+day+winds+down+at+the+polling+station+set+up+in+the+University+of+Utah+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Election+Day%2C+November+3%2C+2020.%28Photo+by+Camille+Rousculp+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

The day winds down at the polling station set up in the University of Utah Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Election Day, November 3, 2020.(Photo by Camille Rousculp | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

As the race for the United States presidency (and federal and state seats across the country) continues, the U welcomed students and community members to vote on campus.

Poll Workers

On Nov. 3, 2020, there were 59 polling locations in Salt Lake County, the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah being one of them. 

Voting was originally intended to be at the J. Willard Marriott Library but was moved to the Huntsman Center to accommodate physical distancing. 

Charlotte Fife-Jepperson, a former U student and poll worker at the Huntsman Center, has been working polls for over 20 years. 

“I’m just really interested in the political process and in civic engagement and helping others cast their votes is really important to me,” Fife-Jepperson said. 

At age 17, she was an exchange student in the Philippines and witnessed people risking their lives to get to the polls. 

“When there’s corruption and voter intimidation and people are risking their lives, I don’t take that for granted. I take our right to vote here very seriously,” Fife-Jepperson said. 

The Huntsman Center was open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a steady stream of voters and lines not exceeding eight to 10 voters at any given time, according to Fife-Jepperson. 

According to Fife-Jepperson, compared to the 2016 election, which saw lines up to a mile long in some locations, the Huntsman Center was not overwhelmed at all. 

“The county added more polling locations, more early voting. They were ready for it. So this has been great. It’s been really smooth and really great to be here at Huntsman,” Fife-Jepperson said. 

One table within the center was designated solely for same-day voter registration and any complications with voters from other states. 

“It has been a little tricky with students who are from other states, making sure they’re registered here in Salt Lake County. They have to bring in all sorts of ID but we can use bills or lease agreements, or even Amazon, anything that has their name and an address,” Fife-Jepperson said. “We’ve been able to process everybody so that’s awesome. Lots of same-day registration. And lots of out-of-state students, so we have a unique situation here on campus.” 

Megan Call, the associate director of the Resiliency Center with U Health and a poll worker running the same-day voter registration table, said many voters have expressed their gratitude for poll workers. 

“I wanted to contribute to community. In conversation today, a lot of us have been feeling a little helpless. I thought that this was a way to take some action and be able to get to contribute,” Call said. 

As a psychologist, Call works with healthcare workers who are currently experiencing heightened stress due to the current political climate. 

“The combination of the pandemic and racial distress, and then kind of what people are bringing into the healthcare system — I’m doing a lot of that for my work,” Call said. 

The University Counseling Center acknowledges the mental and emotional distress related to this election. They are offering a drop-in support group on Nov. 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for students to discuss their feelings in a safe space. 

 

Voters

Sofia Kenney, a sophomore studying business and first-time voter, said she has no idea who will win this election. 

“I wasn’t really sure how the mail-in process really worked and I wasn’t confident that my vote was going to be counted so we decided to actually go to the center. And it was really interesting. It was a cool experience,” Kenney said. 

Michael DeCriscio, the facilities manager at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, said he does not believe there is a winner for the American people. 

“We legislate in this world on the smallest of margins instead of the totality of what benefits the masses,” DeCriscio said. “Neither party, the two parties we’re given, focuses on that or cares, so until we find a way to fix that, it is what it is.”

He said he votes to exercise his civic duty and express his opinion. 

“At the end of the day, I find that regardless of my friends that may be on the other side of the fence, 99% of the issues we’re on the same page,” DeCriscio said. “It’s just sad that they’re the little slivers that create such a polarizing division.”

DeCriscio said he votes in person rather than by mail because of the feeling of tradition. 

“I’m 45, so I’m getting up there, and so I’m progressive in the aspect of I like what technology can do, but I also don’t want to be removed from the roots of what brings human beings together which is traditions,” DeCriscio said. 

Compared to 2016, DeCriscio thinks this election will have the highest turnout, but will be the most polarizing.

“I think that the ‘globalization’ of information and the points that are cherry-picked from that to create the division is what’s really going to make it a historic event in that respect,” he said. “I don’t necessarily mean that in a positive way, but it is what it is.”

When asked if he has been experiencing any fatigue or stress related to the election, DeCriscio said he has been maintaining a positive mindset. 

“Each day, hit reset and just try to be positive. So for me, even though I can feel that vibe in the world, that anxiety, that angst, I just choose to be positive,” he said. “Because positivity is what the world needs.”

 

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