High school student Steven Beard, left, and his friend watch results on one of The New Parkway's theaters. Photo by Ryan Lindsay.

Oakland reacts to early poll results

on November 8, 2016

A tense election night fell over Oakland as the city’s residents prepared to watch eighteen months of campaigning come to a conclusion. A volatile national election characterized the mood of Oaklanders, who were optimistic of a Clinton victory, but also faced an extended ballot of local and national initiatives.

Across the city, election day was mostly calm and collected. Poll worker Rika Votichenko, 29, said the atmosphere at Piedmont Garden Senior Center had been pleasant. She said that people seemed both excited to vote and glad to see the elections come to an end.

But as the polls began to close, one incident raised concerns. At Oakland Technical High School, two young men were asked to leave the polling site for loitering and harassing employees just before 8 p.m. They identified themselves as Rayshawn Coopwood of North Oakland, 21, and Charles Hill, 17. The younger man pulled his pants down far below his waist. Coopwood mentioned owning a Glock and called a poll worker a “broke ass bitch.”

“You must have voted for Donald Trump,” Coopwood said when he was told to leave.

Other than that incident, poll worker Beth Johnson said the rest of the day was “smooth and boring.” Even with the long ballot, many voters came in prepared. “It seems like people really studied up,” she said.

As evening fell, Oakland residents gathered at bars, homes and election parties to watch the results come in. At Club BNB in Oakland, a crowd of people sat in plastic folding chairs facing a giant projection screen. The room was awash in red and blue lights. “This is the first time I’ve seen so much division in these parties,” said Marva Mayes, a member of the crowd. “Peoples’ true colors have been showing—about [what they think about] blacks, gays, etc.”

“The only group Trump didn’t offend was white supremacists,” said Oakland resident Kheven LaGrone. “The fact that Trump is getting so many votes is alarming.”

As of 9:21 p.m., Secretary Clinton had 209 electoral votes and Donald Trump had won 238 electoral votes, with 80 percent of states reporting.

In addition to their presidential candidates, Oaklanders were also voting on 17 state initiatives and nine local ballot measures. “So many people are just talking about the presidential election, but the local election is even more important,” said Stephanie Laursen, an attendant at The New Parkway Theater’s evening watch party. “That’s somewhere we feel like we can really change things.”

Advocates for Measure HH were canvassing in Fruitvale this morning, hoping to sway voters as they headed to the polls. Measure HH, which looks to impose a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, has been particularly contentious. Opponents of the tax raised $7.5 million, while those for it raised $10.4 million, making the measure the most expensive on the local ballot. As of 8:15 p.m., Oakland’s registrar of voters reported 61 percent of voters in support of the measure, with 16.9 percent of precincts counted.

Measure JJ would amend Oakland eviction and rent ordinances, placing the responsibility on landlords to increase rent and evict tenants. Throughout the day, supporters of Measure JJ, including Oakland tenant advocacy group Causa Justa, canvassed and phone-banked out of downtown nonprofit Oakland Rising.

If Measure JJ passes, landlords would have to file a request with the city before they can increase rent beyond two percent and the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance would protect tenants living in buildings constructed before 1996. Currently, the ordinance only protects those who live in buildings constructed before 1980.

“I was tired of the evictions that we were seeing in the neighborhood,” said Oakland Housing Rights Organizer Alma Blackwell. “There’s a lot of things at stake here locally. We want to keep the diversity. We’ve lost a lot, but we don’t want to lose any more people.”  

As of 8:15 p.m., Measure JJ results showed 71 percent of voters in support of the measure.

As for state ballot initiatives, early results from the Secretary of State’s office showed a slight edge for the No on Proposition 60 campaign. Proposition 60 would require the use of condoms and other protective measures during the filming of pornographic films. Pornography producers would also have to pay for certain health requirements and checkups. Advocates have said the proposition would protect actors from sexually transmitted infection, while opponents have argued that it was unnecessary and would violate worker privacy.

Proposition 61 would prohibit the state of California from purchasing prescription drugs from a manufacturer for any price higher than that paid by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. California voters were expected to the support initiative, though many polls have shown a large number of undecided voters. The proposition was the most expensive on the ballot: supporters raised $18 million, mostly from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, while the pharmaceutical industry spent over $109 million to oppose the initiative. With 16 percent of precincts reporting, polls showed 54 percent of votes opposing the initiative.

Both Propositions 62 and 66 related to the death penalty in California, but while the passage of Proposition 62 would ban the death penalty, Proposition 66 would keep it in place and possibly accelerate the process. At 8:15 pm and with 16 percent of precincts reporting, the Secretary of State’s office reported a slight lead for the No on 62 campaign at 55 percent and a very slight lead for the Yes On 66 campaign at 52 percent.

As national results poured in from national news outlets, Oakland residents grew increasingly more anxious. At the New Parkway Theater, the crowd in a screening room shifted from applause when Clinton won New Mexico to boos after hearing that Trump would likely take Missouri.

“I’m freaked out and I’m very, very disappointed in what America is selecting at this point,” said Laura Berg, an Oakland resident who hails from New Mexico.

She sat intently watching at the back of the theater while eating popcorn. “I’m still very hopeful. Pantsuit power!” she exclaimed.

Moments later, she was yelling as CNN’s John King tapped the states on the screen to highlight different scenarios if a particular candidate won a certain state. One combination that slated Trump as the president-elect made someone gasp. “Oh God!” exclaimed a woman sitting on a couch a few seats over from Berg.

Yodassa Williams sat in a reclining chair, clutching a near-empty glass of wine. “Right now we’re all living in immediate panic,” she said. “The growing culture of hate that Trump supports and ushered in and has allowed to the point that children are being bullied is terrible.”

Williams’ friend, Michelle Ching sat next to her, eating nachos. “I think it’s finally setting in—that this could actually happen,” she said. “I was in denial.”

At the New parkway watch party, John McKenna, a knife maker and bartender in Jack London Square, put his wishes simply: “I just want competent governance, that’s all.”

Text by Rosa Furneaux and Margaret Katcher. Photo slideshow assembled by Briana Flin. Reporting by Brian Krans, Cassady Rosenblum, Rachel Cassandra, Emily Thomas, Yesica Prado, Alexandria Fuller, Andrew Beale and Ryan Lindsay. Photography by Ryan Lindsay and Nani Walker.

1 Comment

  1. mike smith on November 8, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Great reporting. Keep at it Oakland North!



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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: oaklandnorthstaff@gmail.com.

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