Walking into a classroom, a library, or even the gym, anyone can see that there is a substantial portion of this campus that supports Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for president. However, this passion for a man hoping to usher in a political revolution does not stop at stickers, buttons, and signs. As the Connecticut primary election looms closer (it will take place Tuesday, April 26), the most passionate of Sanders supporters have begun to pledge their time and energy to getting others excited about the cause.
This past Tuesday, with two weeks remaining until the primary, Wesleyan Students for Bernie launched a campaign kick-off event to recruit and organize volunteers to make a final push for Sanders in the state, where he currently trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Candidacy by 6 points, according to the Emerson College Polling Society.
Citing a recent string of successes in the latest primary contests, student leader Henry Prine ’18 emphasized the roles that volunteers, particularly young individuals, play in Sanders’ primary victories.
“It’s so important that we have this effort, because we can’t win without volunteers,” he said.
He does not feel daunted by Clinton’s current lead in the polls.
“That’s totally achievable,”Prine said. “We can totally win. It’s just going to require a huge effort from us. That means all of us coming together, taking a few extra hours out of our super busy weeks, and putting them in to volunteer. As you all know, Bernie does exceptionally well with students. We are, in many ways, the backbone of his support. We’re what’s bringing energy, enthusiasm, and volunteer hours to this campaign, and making that possible.”
Following a model put forth by other Connecticut college students supporting Sanders—a representative from the group Connecticut Students for Bernie did attend the meeting, though she informed The Argus that she is not allowed to speak with the press—the meeting covered two ways that supporters can participate in the campaign: voter registration and dorm storms.
Voter registration drives will take place in Usdan up until the primary election. All students who did not vote in their home states can register to vote using their campus address (that of their dorm, not their WesBox), as well as the last four digits of their social security numbers (instead of a Connecticut State ID number). In order to clear up any confusion, it was noted that nobody can vote in a primary election in both their home state and at their Connecticut polling station, as that qualifies as election fraud.
Prine also emphasized that selective registration is prohibited, meaning that volunteers must be prepared to register all voters, not just those intending to fill in Sanders’ name on the ballot. Volunteers are allowed to say, however, that voters who intend to select a Democratic candidate must register as a Democrat. The same goes for students intending to vote for a Republican candidate, as Connecticut state hosts closed primary elections.
Fortunately, for most of campus, voting is easier than ever. In a recent all-campus email, it was announced that Beckham Hall would now serve as the District 14 polling location, as opposed to the Senior Center on Broad Street.
“You can literally go right next door from Usdan after you grab your lunch and vote,” Prine said. “It will only take a few minutes, and that makes it super easy. So there’s no reason why anyone on this campus shouldn’t be voting, because it doesn’t take time out of the day.”
Students who have a Washington Street address will not be able to vote in Beckham, but the University will be providing transportation to polling locations throughout the day. The official goal for the student-organizers is to have 420 new students registered.
The second effort to drum up more Sanders support, including dorm storms, will take place over the upcoming weekends in residential buildings on campus. For those unfamiliar with the term, Prine described the process as canvassing in dorms. He emphasized the positive psychological effects of face-to-face interactions with potential voters in both getting them to support Sanders as well as actually getting them to the polls.
“In-person conversations are the best way to get people [to vote],” Prine said. “Half of this election is politics, half of it is psychology. It’s all about getting people to think their voice is important. If people think that their voices and their votes don’t matter, then they’re not going to go out and vote. Impress upon them the importance of doing this and actually showing up. So that’s why we do dorm storming.”
If students express interest in registering to vote during dorm storms, volunteers can direct them to the appropriate sources. However, these conversations are meant to gauge interest, not register voters. The registration process, though being carried out by Sanders supporters in this case, must technically remain nonpartisan.
Ryan Adler-Levine ’18, another one of the meeting’s organizers, strongly believes in Sanders’ message and core values.
“There are so many reasons I feel like people should be voting for Bernie Sanders,” he said. “Bernie Sanders’ message is long overdue. Income inequality has become rampant in America, and Bernie Sanders is speaking out against a system that is clearly corrupt.”
Sanders’ consistent voting record, which has remained a point of praise throughout his campaign, also impacted Adler-Levine’s decision to support the candidate.
“It’s rare to find a politician so consistent and on-message,” Adler-Levine said. “He hasn’t swayed with political tides like a lot of other people, and so it’s clear from his voting record and his history of standing for marginalized groups that he truly cares about working for the middle and lower classes and will continue to do so in office despite the influence of big money and the larger powers that often corrupt politicians.”
Overall, students in attendance were enthusiastic about putting their enthusiasm and words of praise into action.
Nairi Touryan ’16 and Yadira Ochoa ’16 attended the meeting in order to participate in achieving one of the main goals of the student organizers: to get the word out.
“I think I’m going to do this dorm storm,” Touryan said. “It sounds exciting. I’m really excited about [campaigning for Bernie]. I’ve been talking about it a lot with a very specific group of people, and I feel like it’s time to branch out, do something.”
Ochoa believes that volunteers must mobilize voters in Connecticut in order to ensure success for Sanders.
“One of the things that [the Connecticut Students for Bernie organizer] just told me was that there was a county in Massachusetts which Bernie won by one vote,” she said. “So really getting people out there is huge.”
In this crunch time, students hope to make as much of an impact as possible over the next two weeks.
“I’m here because I love Bernie, and I would like to help in any way I can,” Nina Stender ’16 said. “We’re debating whether we want to do registration or the dorm storm, so we’ll see. [My friend] seems to want to do voter registration; honestly it’s the last two weeks, and you need as many hands on board as you can get.”