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On Election Day, Manning the Polls is a Team Sport

November 6, 2012

Reporting by Luke LeSourd and Rachel Southmayd

With 37 different precincts (or voting zones) and more than 90,000 registered voters, Election Day is a busy one in Alamance County.

But it isn’t just employees of the Board of Elections that make the day run smoothly, it’s the hundreds of poll workers who spend a few hours or maybe even the entire day assisting voters who show up to churches and schools across the county, ready to cast their ballot.

In the town of Elon, the First Baptist Church was having a relatively slow morning after an early rush when the polls first opened at 7:30 a.m. Don Burton, a chief judge worker at the polling site, said they had 10 machines operating and 15 workers. In a non-presidential election, Burton says the spot would have far fewer people and only three or four machines.

“On a major election like this, we have to have more,” he said.

Burton said there are four categories for poll workers: chief judges, judges, machine workers and booker workers.

A representative from the Alamance County Board of elections, who declined to give her name, said there are at least three judges at every polling location, but the number could be higher depending on the size of the polling place.

Two Elon University students enter the polling station at the First Baptist Church of Elon College. Beyond these doors waited 15 polling workers ready to help voters cast their ballot on Election Day. Photo by Rachel Southmayd.

Burton said the only qualifications for working at a polling place were attention to detail and being over the age of 18.

“It takes wanting to be precise in what you do,” he said. “You can’t really do it without proper training.”

The Board of Elections representative was quick to point out that these poll workers are not volunteers; they are hourly employees on Election Day. “Assistants,” she said, get paid $8 an hour, while judges make “more than that.”

Burton also said he worked at an early voting site in Burlington, where they saw 700-800 voters each day.

“It’s a pretty intense year this year,” he said.

Jim Chanas is a resident of Elon and worked for the polls. He was at the First Baptist Church from six in the morning and expected to stay until at least 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. While many workers have jobs like checking voter registration and putting the electronic cards inside the voting machines to record a person’s ballot, Jim Chanas was in charge of any voters who come who are handicapped. He will bring a paper ballot directly to their vehicle.

When asked why he decided to work at the polls, Jim Chanas said he considered being part of the democratic process his civic duty.

“I just thought it would be a good idea because I am retired so I can spare the time,” he said.

First time voters and Elon University students Mackenzie Meyer and Taylor Pewitt said the poll workers were very helpful in the voting process.

“We didn’t know how to do anything,” said Meyer. “It was our first time.”

To see a breakdown of the registered voters in the precinct where the First Baptist Church of Elon is located, click here.

The Board of Elections representative said it isn’t hard to find people to staff the polls but that certain steps are taken in the recruitment process to weed out those who may want to commit voter fraud or tamper with votes.



Hurricane Sandy Ravages Northeast, Also Affects Elon Students

October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New York and New Jersey coasts on Monday and Tuesday and left millions without power, and a current death toll of 55 US citizens.  As the storm breaks off west, President Obama visited New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to assess the damage.  However, the superstorm has had a lasting effect on Elon students, as well.

Connecticut is one of many states that have issued a disaster declaration on their four shoreline counties, which has been granted by President Obama.  Sophomore Emily Hackers is from Darien, Connecticut and says that 92% of her town is without power.

“My little brother has school cancelled until next Monday and there are lots of people without houses, it’s bad,” Hackers said.

FCC has stated that a quarter of the cell towers in the northeast have been knocked out due to Sandy, causing many communication problems.  Carys Roberts is a senior from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and her hometown has also been affected.

“I haven’t been able to talk to my parents in four days.  I think it’s because they lost power and haven’t been able to charge their cell phones,” Roberts said.

Perhaps the state that received the worst of Hurricane Sandy is New Jersey.  Sophomore Tyler Brooks has a brother in boarding school in Hightstown, New Jersey.

“They’re not allowed to leave their buildings and they’ve been fed bagged lunches for days,” Brooks said.

The Elon Calling Center, which calls different alumni and parents of students in fundraising efforts, has also been affected.

“We cannot call alumni or parents that have area codes that were in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  Unfortunately, that is a majority of our prospects and is negatively impacting the amount of donations we usually receive,” said Tiffany Ko, Program Center Manager of the Calling Center.

Many Elon students, alumni, and parents are from the Northeast and have been effected by the biggest Hurricane to hit the region.  And even far from home, they are dealing with the damage done by Sandy.

Here is a cool, but chilling look at a timelapse above New York City as Hurricane Sandy hit the city.

Here is Google’s Interactive Crisis map that shows the current status of the storm, while also giving up to the minute locations of power outages, shelters and other various useful information.

Elon University SGA Votes to Uphold Veto on Legislation to Remo

October 24, 2012

Click here for my storify

Elon SGA holds their second open forum on Chick-Fil-A’s presence on campus to a packed house.

Elon University SGA voted to uphold Exectuive President Darien Flowers’ veto on recent legislation that called for the removal of Chick-Fil-A from Elon’s campus.  The senate needed a 2/3 majority to override the original 35-11 vote to remove the on-campus dining facility.  The vote to override the veto and support the original legislation needed at least 27 votes.  The final vote was 21-20.

Nearly 30 students and various faculty and staff members voiced their opinion on the controversial issue that has swept Elon’s campus in the second open forum.

“I was afraid to speak my opinion tonight because I would be labeled anti-gay,” sophomore Lauren Bolusky said.

“To see students walking around with three Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in one hand was actually heartbreaking,” sophomore Delaney McHugo said.

The forum was heated to say the least as almost all of the students who spoke felt strongly one way or another.  The Chick-Fil-A issue has created a swirl of controversy both on Elon’s campus as well as in local and national media.  Media outlets such as The Burlington Times-News, Fox News, and Perez Hilton have all covered the Chick-Fil-A debate on campus, and there was local media present at the open forum last night, as well.

After the original vote to call for the removal of Chick-Fil-A, many students felt both relieved and upset about the tradition.  On October 21, Executive President of SGA Darien Flowers exercised his right to veto the legislation.

“I am taking a position on my belief that is the Elon way to let truth, light, and free expression lead us to make the right decisions and to choose the right course for our lives,” Flowers said in a statement about his veto.

SGA Executive President Darien Flowers (far middle) overlooks the senators as they vote on whether or not to overturn his veto.

Ultimately, the decision about the fast food chain’s future with the university will lie on the board of trustee’s.

Young Voter Trend: Different from 2008?

October 11, 2012

The 2008 election experienced a youth movement that was unprecedented in the United States history.  According to, the youth voter turnout rose 51.1 percent, which is the third highest rate ever.  2 million more young people voted in 2008 than in 2004.  But how will this trend be in 2012?  Furthermore, will the young voters cast their ballot for the same party, or will they change their vote from 2008? Also, since we are all able to register to vote in North Carolina, where are young voters registered to vote?

Here is a video I produced addressing those very questions

Political Science professor and Assistant Director of the Elon University Poll Dr. Jason Husser offered some insight.

“In 2008, we saw young voters (18-25) leaning towards Democrats at a rate relatively higher than their older counterparts.  That trend seems to continue in 2012.  What has changed is that, generally, young voters appear less enthusiastic than they were four years ago,” Husser said.

A Gallup poll conducted in July found that only 58 percent of 18-29 year olds say they intend to vote this year, the lowest percentage of any age demographic.

Senior Max Rodman is one such student who plans to not vote in November.

“I personally agree with the Republican Party when it comes to issues with the economy, and generally the Democratic Party when it comes to social issues.  And I feel that neither party represents my views fully; neither candidate stands out to me,” Rodman said.

However, some students are taking their voting responsibilities more seriously and are contemplating where to register to vote.  Senior Carter Jensen talked about his desire to change his registration.

“I was registered to vote in Connecticut but because North Carolina is a battleground state, I figured I’ll register to vote here and give Romney a chance to win North Carolina,” Jensen said.

Here is my ThingLink on Mitt Romney

Here is my ThingLink on Barack Obama

Here is my photo slideshow

CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts Comes to Elon

September 20, 2012

Here is the link to my storify

Byron Pitts, CBS News correspondent, came to Elon and spoke to a large and engaging audience in McCrary Theater.  Pitts has worked extensively with 60 Minutes and has covered major national events like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.

Pitts’ speech was titled, “We are Tough and Delicate Creatures.”  Pitts elaborated on that as he cited Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 as he saw individual people do extraordinary things, not necessarily all good.

“I saw the worst of us, but I also saw the best of us,” Pitts said.

As he went on to talk about Hurricane Katrina, he noted how there were many looters, but he also said there were people saving lives.  According to Pitts, however, his professional life changed after covering 9/11.

“There was a young marine, 19 years old, and a police officer asked why he wasn’t running from the towers.  The marine replied, ‘I can hear somebody, and they’re not going to die alone.’”

Pitts spoke for about 30 minutes and then opened up for questions from the audience, all while speaking without any notes and infusing humor into his responses.  When a senior Broadcast Journalism major asked about what lies ahead after graduation, Pitts joked,

“Heartbreak, disappointment.”

Pitts also gave encouraging words of comfort, however.  He doesn’t envision the journalism career being in any danger.

“As long as there is a United States of America, and the freedom of information, there will be journalists.  As long as there are children wanting stories whispered in their ear, there will be story-tellers.”

Pitts closed out his conversation with Elon by giving out both his email address and cell phone number.  He cited the need for professional journalists to “pay it forward” to the next generation.

“When you reach your goals professionally, all I ask is that you give back.”

Elon Alum Jenny Leigh Freeman is a Contestant for “The Next” TV Show

September 20, 2012

Video and story by Luke LeSourd and Stephanie Petrich

Elon University alumni have been making national headlines in the past couple of months for their achievements after graduation. Jenny Leigh Freeman, a 2006 graduate, is the latest alumna to be in the spotlight. Freeman is an aspiring country singer and a contestant on the CW’s “The NEXT,” a singing competition showcasing undiscovered artists.

Scouts from “The NEXT” discovered Freeman earlier this year in Baltimore. Freeman is well known in the Baltimore area as a talented country singer. Freeman’s popularity in the Baltimore area might have helped her land a spot in the competition. The show differs from other reality singing competition shows because it seeks out talent instead of holding auditions.

She will be competing for fans’ votes on Sept. 20 during the fan vote episode of “The NEXT.” While she was at Elon University she was a part of Twister Measure, a co-ed a capella group, and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Both organizations are spreading the word through social media to get current students to vote for Freeman on the upcoming episode.

She has always had a love for music and has big dreams of becoming the next big country superstar. Since graduating she has been trying to break into the country music world while working in marketing for Under Armour in Baltimore.

Freeman may be far away from Elon University, but students and alumni still on campus are helping to spread the word.

The Fat Frogg, a local bar and grill, will be helping to support Freeman by hosting a live viewing of “The NEXT” on Sept. 20. Peter Ustach, co-owner of The Fat Frogg, said he read about Freeman in the Pendulum and contacted Freeman’s sorority about promoting her. Ustach has a lot of mutual friends with Freeman and is excited to support an Elon University alumna.

“Our biggest thing is getting the most people out to vote on their phones,” Ustach said.

The Fat Frogg plans to stream “The NEXT” on all their TVs and use the loudspeakers so fans can cheer Freeman on from Elon University. The local bar and grill hopes students will come out to celebrate Freeman’s success and move her to the next round of the competition.

President Lambert, Elon University’s President, is also promoting Freeman’s success. He used social media to congratulate Freeman on her success and encourage the Elon University community to support her on “The NEXT.”

If Freeman makes it past the fan vote episode she will move on to the next round of competition in Los Angeles. Contestants on the show are mentored by successful music artists and have the chance to increase their stardom. Winning “The NEXT” competition will give Freeman the opportunity to achieve her dreams through a recording contract with Atlantic Records.

The support from Elon University has shown current students just how much the university is willing to support student’s endeavors.  The message that graduating seniors hear at graduation rings true in the support the university has recently given to alumni. You may leave Elon University, but Elon University will never leave you.

Tuesday Night Trivia at Fat Froggs

September 13, 2012

Fat Frogg bar and grill is a popular destination in itself, known for good food and a large beer selection, but on Tuesday nights, the bar is packed with college students and locals.  Fat Frogg, located on Timberline Station Drive in Elon, N.C., offers trivia Tuesdays, a weekly event on Tuesday evenings.  Patrons of the bar can come and form teams of two or more and compete in a four-round trivia session to win prizes.  Team scores from each week are carried over, and will be totaled so that the group with the highest score wins this year’s prize – a $50 Fat Frogg gift certificate.

Bar manager Peter Ustach said that attendance has grown tremendously from when the bar first opened in 2009.  Originally, he said, trivia was highly competitive, with the same serious teams coming every week to play.  Ustach said trivia of late has been more light-hearted, with teams that aren’t as competitive about game play.

Check out this audio slideshow to see and hear more about Fat Frogg and Tuesday trivia.

Charles Cook: Political Analyst Visits Elon

September 10, 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Anchor Lead-In: Charles Cook, a political analyst for NBC News who specializes in election forecasts and
trends, visited Elon on Monday night to discuss the upcoming election.  Luke LeSourd has more.

As the political winds shift towards a tight election in November, Charles Cook offered interesting insight as to who could pull ahead.

SOT: “If President Obama is reelected it will be despite the economy in favor of his campaign, if Romney is elected it will be despite his campaign in favor of the economy.”

As Cook continued with his speech, the focus was mainly on the economy.

SOT: “Generally, if an economy is this bad, a president doesn’t get reelected.”

So why are pundits predicting such a close election?

SOT: “You have an incumbent who I consider to be unelectable, but is running the perfect campaign.”

Cook offered a great deal of insight as to why the Romney campaign is lagging behind President Obama.

SOT: “Always define your candidate before your opponent has the chance to.”

The Romney camp hasn’t done that, as Cook explained. He explained that while the major news outlets broadcasted both of the party’s conventions between 10 pm and 11 pm, President Obama gave his speech.  But during the RNC, only Marco Rubio and Clint Eastwood spoke during that time.  Cook also noted the lack of advertising for Romney on other channels besides the main news outlets.

SOT: “I watched four straight hours of Law and Order: SVU on USA, and saw 12 Obama ads, guess how many Romney ads I saw? Zero.”

Democratic National Convention 2012: What Would You Name Your Own Super PAC?

September 10, 2012

During the Democratic National Convention, I had the chance to work with Creative Loafing in Charlotte, to help produce a package of what people would name their own Super PAC.  Here is the final product:

Religion in Politics

August 28, 2012


With the upcoming presidential election this November, campus is buzzing with political talk.  Many students are excited for their first time in the voting booths, while this is just another election to older professors.  When looking at the election, however, it is hard not to talk very long about either candidate without mentioning religion.  Presumptive nominee Mitt Romney will be the first Mormon of a major political party to run for president in U.S. history.

Around campus, it is clear that most people believe that religion does indeed play a role in a person’s decision of who to vote for.

Associate Dean of the School of Communications, Don Grady says, “Many people take religion into account because they view it as a reflection of that person’s character.”  He believes that a candidate’s religious belief will be an indicator of where they stand on many other issues, as well.

Jean Johnson, Acorn employee, says, “People should vote on what they want from the [candidate], not religion.”

“I don’t care what religion you are, if you support me and my beliefs, we’ll be fine,” says Francine Light, Aramark employee.

Many people have their own interpretations of how America factors religion into voting decisions.  “[It has to do with] where you live, where you’re from,” says Elon sophomore Mackenzie Roberts.

Last election, Pew Research Center found a trend among church attendance and how they voted.


It is clear that this November, religion will be a key determining factor in the election.