This story was written by Emily Reynolds, Massachusetts Daily Collegian
Last Tuesday night, three members of the University of Massachusetts Democrats and UMass for Barack Obama were invited to the Massachusetts Democratic Party Headquarters to celebrate their achievements in registering voters for the 2008 election.
"It was a congratulatory event where the campaign workers were honoring the students," said Emma Einhorn, president of the UMass Democrats. "This is the first time they really organized campuses in this way, so they were really pleased with the turnout."
The two groups from the University of Massachusetts were recognized for their voter registration efforts. They registered close to 650 students and helped an additional 610 students to register for absentee ballots.
"It was a competition with other schools," said Ashley Coulombe, the press director for both clubs. "It gave more of an incentive for schools to register students."
Part of the drive was a $200 award for registering more students than any other school in the state. Northeastern University and Tufts University came in second and third, respectively.
"Our biggest draw was that we tabled at the dining hall," said Einhorn. "It was packed every night and got so busy. It was great. We got at least 100 students registered every night we were there."
UMass clubs registered 4,000 students collectively. The Student Government Association, MassPirg and the Cannabis Reform Coalition were among other organizations on campus that pushed to register students.
"We did a smaller voter registration last Spring semester, but we didn't get nearly the turnout we got this semester," said Einhorn. "This semester, students were really motivated by the historic election and Barack Obama, and the students really pushed this registration."
UMFBO also made calls for Obama the day of the election and the weekend leading up to it. They made around 2,300 calls to people all over the country, including swing states like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
"We had student and community members making calls," said Coulombe. "We also made about 300 calls to UMass students in Amherst that we and MassPirg registered."
In addition to the calls and voter registration, the two clubs also organized trips to New Hampshire on weekends to canvas.
"When we made trips, we sent up about 20 people, and we made about three or four big trips," said Coulombe. "Mt. Holyoke was recognized for canvassing. I think it's good to give out an award because it keeps student's interest up."
According to Einhorn, the clubs went to New Hampshire because as swing state, the election was more likely to be closely contested.
UMass Democrats and UMFBO started working together last spring to register voters. UMFBO was originally created to introduce students to Obama and spread information about him. Once it was clear that Obama was the front runner, the main concern was getting people registered so that they could vote for him.
Of the three students who were invited to the event, only Einhorn attended. Coulombe was also invited along with Matt Cadwallader, the president of UMFBO. At the event, Einhorn met John Kerry and asked him questions along with students from other schools.
"I was chosen to meet John Kerry outside and walk him upstairs to where the event was being held," said Einhorn. "He asked us about our experiences during the election and allowed questions. He was amazing with the questions."
The event recognized schools that registered the most students to vote, made phone calls and sent people to canvas in New Hampshire.
"It was fun, and I got to meet a lot of people from other schoos, which was really nice," said Einhorn.