On Wednesday, March 23, Christine Mikiewicz, the Connecticut and Rhode Island college director for the Bernie Sanders campaign, visited campus to recruit student volunteers for the campaign. These volunteers are responsible for spreading the word about the Sanders campaign and encourage other students to register to vote in the upcoming election.
Mikiewicz said that she has been involved in local and state elections since her college career and was eager to join the Sanders campaign when the opportunity presented itself.
As a long-time Sanders supporter, Mikiewicz expressed her interest in his policies. Specifically, she spoke to his opinions on public health.
“I think that public health is totally under-utilized in this state,” Mikiewicz said. “A universal health care system will obviously help many Americans with poverty, education, and it will reduce the poverty cycle and the downward mobility in the United States.”
Mikiewicz joined the Sanders team in December as a regional field director in Massachusetts, and has since switched to college organizing because of the impact of the youth vote.
“We [in the Sanders campaign] win the youth vote by huge margins,” Mikiewicz said. “But the percentage of the youth vote is [about] 18 percent. Imagine if all of the youth actually came out to vote, we’d win every state.”
She added further that the youth vote is incredibly important in the election, but, unfortunately, many of these individuals are politically apathetic. This age group may believe in a campaign message, but at the same time, they may not actively engage with it. During her visit to the University, Mikiewicz aimed to bring new people into the political revolution in an attempt to make a difference this election year.
Mikiewicz sought University students who would volunteer for a variety of Sanders-related events. For example, students might walk around campus during “Days of Action,” which encourages classmates to register to vote. The campaign wants to register as many voters as possible by April 21 in preparation for Connecticut’s April 26 primary. Connecticut does have same day voter registration, though the option is only available to voters who have never before registered. If students have voted in a different state or are registered for a different party, they must change their registration before to the primary.
Mikiewicz also reminded students that Connecticut is a closed primary, meaning only party members are able to participate in the upcoming primary election.
“You have to be registered as a Democrat to vote for Bernie Sanders [in the Connecticut primary],” Mikiewicz explained.
Some out-of-state students asked where they should register, between their hometown or in Connecticut. Mikiewicz recommended registering for whichever state a student calls home, and stressed that voting in two states’ primaries is a federal crime. Rockthevote.com, a non-profit organization aimed at getting young people to the polls, has more information for student voters.
Besides “Days of Action,” students have the opportunity to also participate in weekly phone banks to call Connecticut residents and encourage them to vote for Sanders. Students might also participate in off-campus canvassing or have the chance to “dorm-storm.” As for the latter, these students will walk through dorms to ask for their classmates’ vote. Mikiewicz added that simple actions such as sidewalk chalk messages and bumper stickers can also help to spread the word.
Many of the students in attendance were already Sanders supporters looking for new ways to get involved with the campaign. Drew Krinitsky ’17 and Caitlin O’Keeffe ’17 have been following the campaign, attending Sanders speeches in Madison, Wis. and Boston, Mass.
“With Bernie, there’s a message of idealism and optimism,” Krinitsky said.
O’Keeffe specifically expressed her discontent with partisanship in U.S. politics and discussed how a perceived anti-establishment candidate like Sanders could help mitigate the problem.
“I’m really frustrated with the current polarization of our political system,” O’Keeffe added. “I just want something different. And I’m tired of politics dictating a kind of high-level diplomacy that basically only a certain tax bracket can access leading the charge.”
Students who want to participate in the Sanders campaign can attend a phone bank at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 27 in Usdan 108. Interested students are also encouraged to join the Wesleyan Democratic Socialists who are hosting weekly Monday meetings at 8 p.m. in the University Organizing Center.