In preparation for Tuesday’s elections, student groups are working to inform voters and actively involve students in the campaign.
While media attention has fixated on the presidential and vice presidential candidates, the Wesleyan Democrats (WesDems) and Wesleyan Republicans (WesRepublicans) are focusing on local candidates in the last few days before the election.
“We’re trying to ensure that students don’t just go to the polls to vote for Obama, but also the Democratic allies that he’ll need at the local level,” said Karl Grindal ’09, former president of the WesDems.
Current WesDems president Lauren Valentino ’10 similarly emphasized the group’s commitment to local politics.
“We have really focused on three campaigns: Jim Hines, Matt Lesser, who is a Wesleyan alum, and Barack Obama,” she said. “Our goal is not only to make sure that every Wesleyan student votes, but to make sure that they know before they walk in who’s on the ballot, and the questions that are going to be on the ballot.”
To inform students, the WesDems will be distributing fliers to student mailboxes with information on the candidates and the questions on the ballot. On Election Day, the WesDems plan to make phone calls and send e-mails to registered voters, providing them with basic information and reminding them to cast their ballot. In addition, they plan to provide a van that will drive students down to the polls.
While the WesRepublicans have no public plans to campaign between now and Election Day, their efforts over the past few months have also been focused on local and state races, especially that for Connecticut State Representative between the Republican candidate Ray Kalinowski, the incumbent, and the Democratic candidate Matt Lesser ’09.
“We support Kalinowski over Lesser, who we view as just one more utopian-minded Leftist who, if elected, will do nothing but further cement Wesleyan’s reputation as a breeding ground for future radical Democratic operatives,” said Mytheos Holt ’10, secretary of the WesRepublicans.
The WesRepublicans invited Kalinowski to speak at a WesRepublicans meeting earlier this year. They were also able to retrieve some contact information from several conservative parents and alumni over Homecoming Week.
Other partisan groups, such as Students for Barack Obama, have extended their efforts off campus, canvassing in crucial states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
“[Our trips have been] really successful,” said Dan Levine ’11, a member of Students for Barack Obama who has organized and led several canvassing trips. “One of the trips that I led to Pennsylvania was to [a county] identified as one of the key electoral counties. Our first trip over there, we brought four carloads of people. With a few other volunteers, we canvassed the entire county, meaning we knocked on every single door that was registered as undecided.”
Students for Barack Obama has thus far organized two trips to Pennsylvania and two to New Hampshire, all with about 20 people attending. The group plans to send more volunteers to both states this weekend, some of whom will stay until Election Day.
WesVotes, a new program created earlier this year as a joint project between students and administrators, is working to encourage voter registration. Through this program, designated hall captains in each dorm went door-to-door to encourage their neighbors to vote, and to help them request for an absentee ballot. To further promote voter registration, the Registrar’s office provided a link to DeclareYourself.org in every student’s Electronic Portfolio, making registration quick and easily accessible.
Whether it is because of these groups’ efforts or not, excitement about the elections has certainly been strong among students.
“I think the political climate on campus is great,” Levine said. “A lot of people on campus really enjoy this opportunity to really take an active role in this campaign. I think the fact that students today are so often seen as useless [in the elections process] makes it all the more impressive that Wesleyan students are so involved.”
Students’ political views, however, have been overwhelmingly left-leaning.
“I don’t know a whole lot about any McCain efforts on campus, and I certainly haven’t seen anything, but I think that’s just where students [stand politically],” Levine said.
The WesRepublicans, in fact, had no plans to do any active campaigning for Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain. Holt did express, however, that student Republicans have certainly felt animosity from student Democrats.
Holt equated his own feelings about the largely liberal political excitement on campus to those of Frankenstein’s monster about a mob.
“What does Frankenstein’s monster think of the pitchfork-wielding mob?” He said.
Political inclinations aside, student political groups are expected to be extremely active in the last few days before the election.
“All we can do at this point is try to educate as many people on campus, and hope that they recognize the importance of casting an educated vote and participating in this election,” Valentino said.