The 2016 Presidential Primaries Come To Santa Monica

Jacob Hirsohn and Ashleen Knutsen

  After what has felt like years of elections all around the country, the 2016 presidential primaries finally came to California on June 7. Election day was alive and well in Santa Monica with polls happening all around the city, an official watch party for Hillary Clinton’s victory speech being held in Venice, and a speech from Bernie Sanders at the Santa Monica Airport.

While the day was lively throughout the city, it was undeniably strange as well. After the California primary being consistently touted as crucial by the Sanders campaign, the wind was taken out of the primary’s sails the night before when the Associated Press announced that Clinton was the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party.

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This surprising twist hung over each of the day’s events in different ways. At the polling places, it manifested itself in frustration and apathy for some, and hopeful acceptance for others.

SMC student Yasmin Attiah planned on voting for Bernie Sanders even though she believed he no longer had a chance to become the democratic nominee.

“I think he is still in it just to send out his message and let us hear what he wants us to know, and see that there is really corruption,” she said.

But the news about Clinton wasn’t the only thing affecting voters’ thought process. Even though he clinched the Republican nomination weeks ago, Donald Trump still cast a long shadow over the California primaries.

When asked who she would vote for in the general election in November, Attiah took a moment to think before she said, “Between Hillary and Trump, it’s like choosing between who’s the least evil. Probably just because I guess I’m more left-side than right, it would have to be for Hillary. If I vote.”

Maria Perez, who is currently applying for citizenship, was unable to vote in the primary election, but hopes to be a citizen before the general election. “I wanted to vote for Bernie, but I don’t think he’s going to nail the nomination,” she said. “If I were able to vote, I would vote for Hillary. I would never vote for Trump. Way, way too much hatred.”

Other students were less sure of who they would support. “In terms of who I’m voting for, I don’t really know,” said Neil Carbajal. “I would have to research it, because, after all, we are scholars. So I would research it, I wouldn’t go in blind and vote.”

Carlos Silva was also undecided.

“I don’t see anything in any of the candidates,” he said. However, he did know that he doesn’t trust Donald Trump: “I don’t believe anything Trump says. Everything that comes out of his mouth is garbage.”

Dylan Chase, student at SMC voices his stance on the election.

— The Corsair (@The_Corsair) June 7, 2016


At the polls in Westwood, mother and son voters Elizabeth Shephard and Ben Salk handed in their mail-in ballots.

Salk, who voted for Sanders to show support for the candidate’s policies, said, “I don’t think Bernie is actually going to win, but I think it’s important to keep Hillary to the left. I’m not enthusiastic about her, but I’ll vote for her in the general election.”

Shephard, on the other hand, voted for Clinton: “I very much appreciate Bernie keeping Hillary to the left, but I just cut to the chase and I voted Hillary. Anybody but Trump, right?”

While things went smoothly for them, issues arose nearby at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church when both the volunteers scheduled to man the table for one precinct failed to show up. Carol Boyk, the inspector for the other precinct set up at the same location, instructed her workers to assist the voters from the absent precinct using provisional ballots while she found a solution.

“Basically, if nobody shows up we call the county,” she said. “We must have called three or four times. Finally they sent two people who were very competent.”

At 12:30 p.m., once the table, voting booths and machine were finally set up, the “trouble-shooters,” as Boyk referred to them, were still trying to find people to run the table, asking voters if they had the time to help out. However, when asked about the situation, they declined to comment.

The previous night’s news of course most drastically affected the mood of Clinton and her supporters. After another unexpectedly contentious campaign for the former secretary of state, the end brought triumph for the candidate, as well as the group of about 20 supporters who gathered at Hal’s Bar and Grill in Venice, at an event organized by a group called Venice for Hillary.

The crowd at the Hillary Watch Party at Hal's Bar and Grill in Venice watch as the results poor in.

— The Corsair (@The_Corsair) June 8, 2016


As Clinton was shown walking to the podium, the once quiet group erupted in cheers and applause. Attendees watched on with excitement, cheered along with the televised crowd and felt overcome with emotion when Clinton talked about how far they’ve come.

Lisa Lubchansky, who helps with phone banking for the group, reflected on the past few years. “There’s been three monumental things,” she said. “We’ve got an African-American president, gay rights — I got to get married — and now a female president. Who would have thought any of those three things would ever happen in my lifetime? And voting this morning and having a woman, and such an amazing woman, to cast a vote for — huge.”

As the night went on the crowd grew to around 50 people, the majority of which being women. Each time voting results were shown in favor of Clinton, attendees would burst out in deafening applause.

Most of the women were Clinton supporters since her attempt in 2008.

“I saved my bumper sticker and pulled it out when I heard she was running,” said Hilda Turner. “It’s an incredible time to be in California. It’s an incredible time to be a woman. But that’s really not why I’m voting for her. I’m voting for her because she has always cared about us — everyone.”

Based on her speech, given in New York long before the night’s elections had been called, Clinton shared these sentiments.

“Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone — the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee for president of the United States,” said Clinton. “I hear you, I see you, and as your president I will always have your back.”

The speech of the other Democratic candidate was unsurprisingly affected by the previous night’s news in a drastically different way. If Sanders had any faith left in his ability to snag the nomination, it seemed squashed by the time he took the stage at the Santa Monica Airport, when he found himself behind by more than 20 points early in the California primary.

The candidate was introduced as the “Next president of the United States,” but, in front of the crowd, he felt less convinced than ever. His speech, which usually lasts around an hour, was over in less than half that time.

His supporters on the other hand, whose cheers made up at least half of the running time of his speech, had no noticeable loss of enthusiasm.

“I would say that people here are feeling even stronger, and are committed to the things they believe in,” said Sanders supporter Salvador Benavides. “It's always the case when you feel that you may not have to further define and further understand what you believe in. And everyone knows what they're here for. And I think they're all willing to work even harder. I certainly am.”

Despite Sanders’ discouraged disposition, he left no confusion about whether his campaign will continue, making allusions to both the Washington D.C. primary and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

And even if Sanders offered no response to Clinton’s presumptive nomination during his speech, his supporters took on his defiant spirit and pushed back against it, passionately.

“Oh my gosh. I was like, 'That is so wrong.' Brainwashing,” said Michelle Hope Walker, Koreatown resident and Sanders supporter. "What was that...The 1968 Democratic party in Chicago? It's time to do it like that and more. It's time to shut it down. Go to the Democratic convention, make sure they do stuff fairly...They can not force Hillary on us, they can not do that."

While most Sanders supporters seemed almost stubbornly focused on winning this election, some were able to be hopeful about his future beyond this election as well.

“I'd hope that he stays engaged and he keeps on just working with all of the young people that are out there. Because I know he started a movement, and I'd hate to see everyone go back to their lives and pretend it didn't happen afterwards. I'd hope that more people get involved in government and politics,” said Sanders campaign volunteer Christopher Malandrinos.

[pullquote speaker="Michelle Hope Walker" photo="" align="left" background="off" border="all" shadow="off"]What was that...The 1968 Democratic party in Chicago? It's time to do it like that and more. It's time to shut it down. Go to the Democratic convention, make sure they do stuff fairly...They can not force Hillary on us, they can not do that.[/pullquote]

Another topic that loomed throughout the day was voter suppression. Once polls had been open for just a few hours, rumors began to fly about issues at polling places, especially in the Westwood community, where a lot of young students would be voting for the first time.

“...At the polls today, to me, there was a lot of voter suppression. They kept telling people to vote provisional and think their vote would count today, but it would not count in these counts right here,” said Walker.

Most of these issues seemed to generate from confusion around provisional ballots, like at the aforementioned St. Albans Episcopal Church precincts.

“Provisional, that’s a different thing. Provisional is if your name is not here. And people are so scared that provisional means something bad, and it just means that they count that too and it just might officially be tallied in like a week,” said Henri Yonet, a poll worker at the Kahal Joseph Congregation in Westwood.

By the time the votes were counted, Clinton and Trump had won in landslides. But despite the extremely expected results, some unexpected factors made it another strange day in one of the strangest elections in recent memory.