Surrounded by balloon arches, streamers and TVs tuned to CNN, students gathered over pizza and donut holes at The Treehouse on Tuesday.
The night’s topic: the 2022 midterm elections.
For the second year, Democracy Day, a university-wide holiday, was observed on campus during election day. All classes were canceled, and student organizations worked with the University to host social, political and academic events for students to engage with politics and government.
“Today was an incredible day,” said Christopher Maximos ’23, Democracy Day Committee budget and operations director and Stanford in Government chair. “I think we engaged thousands of students from all parts of the campus … and I think students are walking away feeling really energized about the civic culture here.”
Stanford Democrats co-president Cameron Lange ’24 said giving students a day off of classes on election day was a hard-won and important victory. Navigating the absentee voting process as an out-of-state student “can feel like more homework,” Lange said.
“It’s so difficult to engage civically as a college student,” she said. “We have so much on our plates. So I think it’s really incredible that Stanford gives us this time not only to cast our ballots but also to really consider what it means to live in a democracy and how best we can exercise our civic duties.”
Echoing Maximos and Lange, Emily Tianshi ’25, Stanford Votes institutional relations co-director, said she appreciates the University’s efforts to increase civic engagement on campus.
“I’m really glad that Stanford is making this day its own occasion because it really is a great chance for all of us to reflect upon our civic duties and what we can be doing for this country and for each other,” Tianshi said.
For Millie Lin BS ’22 M.S. ’24, Democracy Day was about community, on a local and national scale.
“Democracy Day is a day to connect with the rest of the nation and everybody around me about what it means to be in the US and to vote,” Lin said. “It’s also a day to get caught up on what’s happening in the community on a local level, a state level [and] national level by talking with people [and] by researching what candidates are running or referendums are going on.”
Lin voted in person at Tresidder before heading to the campus watch party at Treehouse. Lin said the lines to vote were almost coming out of the door. She described fellow voters as “very polite but very intentional about performing their civic duty, which is pretty cool.”
Trista Shideler, Office of Student Engagement assistant director for Campus Life, said she saw more students out today than she had in a while, both studying and asking where to drop off their ballots, noting that “a lot of people were moved to move.”
Democracy Day’s “Party at the Polls” event, located at Old Union near the Tresidder polling place and the post office, gave students a place to relax and enjoy refreshments before or after voting.
Dawn Royster ’26 attended the event and spoke on the importance of voting while waiting for a boba drink at one of the booths.
“I always tell people about the idea of defensively voting — you should always care because they’re counting on you not to care most of the time,” Royster said.
As a Florida native, she expressed frustration at the disdain that some people had towards voting.
“It’s so accessible here,” she said. “They don’t have the piles of voter suppression laws that we deal with in Florida, and they don’t know what it is like to be across from an opposite party that is unabashedly hateful.”
Other students agreed with Royster on the importance of voting. Nabishya Rayamajhi ’26, who is currently 17 years old, said she “one hundred percent would” vote if she was eligible. She conveyed how strongly she believed in the practice of voting despite not yet being able to take part.
“Democracy Day means getting out and taking time away from your classes to really practice your civil liberties of voting and making sure your voice is heard, because every vote matters,” she said, over a slice of pizza at Treehouse.
With three TV screens broadcasting the incoming results, Treehouse’s campus watch party was a bustling event. Among the viewers was Kyle Becerra ’24, an ASSU senator and self-proclaimed “proud Democrat.”
“We have this very prevalent culture of a lack of trust in our current political institutions,” Beccara said. “But if we want to change those narratives, we have to vote. So the way I see it is that we are the solution.”
As the night went on and more projected results started pouring in, Anna Chavez ’23, Stanford Women in Politics president, gave her personal opinions on the results.
“There [are] some wins and losses in my opinion,” she said, noting that some of these victories included the election of people from marginalized communities. Such wins included New York’s first woman governor, who was elected last year and re-elected last night, the first Black governor of Maryland and the first Black Secretary of State in California, Chavez said.
“These are firsts, and those are amazing wins. But representation needs to be improved upon,” she said. “Women make up about a third of congress, when we’re half the population. So even though these are wins for a lot of groups, we continue to look forward to there being many seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths.”
For Chavez, who is a Texas native, the governor’s race in Texas was a loss. Incumbent Greg Abbott is projected to win against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.
However, Chavez emphasized that the fight wasn’t over, adding that “there’s always more work to be done.”
While students’ personal views on the results of midterm elections varied, Democracy Day provided opportunities for campus-wide political engagement.
“I’m hoping we can take the wins from today and separate them from however tonight goes,” Maximos said. “I think people think of their civic duty every four years at the presidential election, and I think today we showed how important and consequential the midterms were, and [people] feel like they have real agency to change our government.”