It’s still too early for hard numbers, but long lines full of young faces at polling places indicate that first-time voters are making their voices heard on this Election Day. And those voices are loudest in battleground states like Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to voter mobilization organization Rock the Vote.
By noon, Philadelphia’s Drexel University had already seen more voters than it did four years ago (574 so far today, compared to 425 total in 2004). Farther west, more than 1,000 students have already come out to vote on the campus of Penn State University, Rock the Vote reports.
In Blacksburg, Virginia, more than 5,600 people (mainly Virginia Tech students) are registered to vote. This is nearly double what the state law allows in terms of polling-station capacity, resulting in huge delays. Additionally, the solitary polling station is located 6.5 miles from campus at a small church on an unmarked road.
Rock the Vote’s numbers bolster what MTV News’ Street Team reporters are finding across the country. Several Street Teamers are reporting that the youth vote is coming out strong, even early in the day. Florida correspondent Anthony Wojtkowiak has encountered lines around the block at St. Augustine’s church near the University of Miami, and he spoke to a couple of students who got up at 5:30 a.m. just to cast their ballots.
In Bloomington, Indiana, Alex Damron met up with a bunch of young voters who hope that this election will help usher in change for the state. Colorado correspondent Trevor Martin spoke to a young waitress who said that most of her co-workers had already voted by early mail-in ballot. “That’s awesome because I think this is one of the first times that Colorado has been a swing state and had early voting in the first place. A lot of people took advantage of that,” she said.
New Mexico Street Teamer Christine Begay spoke to one young voter who said this year could lead to a “true step for change.” He added, “The youth involvement is extraordinary. … I’m proud of the American people [for] really showing up today and voting for whoever. It doesn’t matter who they vote for, as long as they vote.”
And young people are out there, letting people know that they support both McCain and Obama. Illinois correspondent Jacqueline Ingles encountered one Obama supporter who said, “I voted for Obama because he’s just so inspirational. … We’re from the same neighborhood, so that’s even cooler. … As far as young people, he really looks out for their values.”
Meanwhile, Arizona Street Teamer Nicole Fagin met up with two McCain supporters who showed their alliance to the state’s senator. “I really believe in his opinions on the economy and health care and his respect for human dignity and life, so that’s why I voted for McCain,” one of the women said.
When it was pointed out that their McCain/Palin T-shirts seemed to put them in the minority, she added, “I think it’s kind of the norm for youth in America, and it’s obviously like that on this campus — there’s a lot more Obama supporters. But we still stand strong and walk around with pride in our McCain shirts.”
Regardless of who it is young people are voting for, the important thing is that they’re out there making sure that their opinions count. According to Rock the Vote, as of 4 p.m. ET, the turnout for voters ages 18-29 had already surpassed 2004’s numbers.
Still, some people have encountered problems. The organization also reports that voters in Florida, Texas and Arizona have reportedly received the following text message: “Due to long lines today, all Obama voters are asked to vote on Wednesday. Thank you for your cooperation.”
That won’t necessarily keep young voters away from the polls. Nebraska Street Teamer Jane Fleming Kleeb has prepared an interesting blog post with figures about the youth vote.
MTV News is at the polls in all 50 states — check out our coverage all day long on MTV and right here on MTVNews.com. Then, tell us why you voted! Comment below, upload video at yourhere.mtv.com, or text VOTE to 66333 with your first name, age, state and a comment about your experience. Your message will appear on our election map and could appear on TV today!