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Activists Invade U. Nevada-Reno Campus To Register Voters

This story was written by Nick Coltrain, Sagebrush

In four 12-hour days, Brent Mickey said he must have called out, Are you registered to vote? more than a thousand times.

Mickey rattled off his question whenever someone who could be registered was nearby. Between classes, his words ran together.

Most students at Hilliard Plaza ignored him as they weaved between the supporters of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama urging them to register to vote or to support their respective candidate.

Its tedious work, Mickey said. You definitely lose your breath toward the end of the day and get kind of a scratchy voice. But it is definitely beneficial in the end.

Mickey, 25, from California, spent four days at the University of Nevada-Reno last week to collect signatures for an initiative to add 3 percent to the Nevada hotel room tax as a way to support K-12 education. Four others pleaded for the Nevada State Education Associations petition during that time.

Volunteers for the non-partisan Progressive Voter Network registered people near the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and the Joe Crowley Student Union. Partisan volunteers registered students and gave information about their candidates at Hilliard Plaza. Other petitioners roved around campus.

Mickey looked toward a group of students near the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Hey, are you guys Nevada voters? Mickey asked.

Im already registered, Ricardo Salezar, a 20-year-old criminal justice major, replied.

Perfect.

Mickey jogged over and went into his spiel. Salezar asked him to slow down and explain the initiative better. Upon learning it was for education, Salezar signed. His other friends had already signed with the petitioners near the knowledge center.

Salezar, like other students, said he understood and even appreciated that Mickey and the presidential campaign supporters were trying to inform students.

It gets annoying because you already have a candidate in mind, he said. It sucks because you like dont want to sound mean or be rude, but you sort of just need to ignore them and start walking away.

Theres no evidence that the registration and signature drives detract from overall turnout, said Eric Herzik, a UNR political science professor.

I think if youre a student and youve been asked 20 times are you registered to vote, yeah, you might start to get tired of it and if you are kind of marginal about voting you might say this is why I hate politics, he said. In terms of the petition signing, same thing.

Mickey ran up to Natalie Valentine, a 23-year-old secondary education major, while she sat on a bench sending text messages. She said she has never seen the political atmosphere like it is at UNR.

I think its cool, Valentine said. Im all about voting. The petitions, I think they need to have clearer reasons as to why they want people to sign. Ive had a lot (of people) not really be able to answer the questions that I ask them.

She said Mickey was less obtrusive because he was quick, to the point and explained the petition again when she asked him to.

Matthew Embrey, a volunteer at the Obama table, said they toned down their push so as not to overwhelm students. They arent toning down their enthusiasm though, he said.

Mickey said the petitioners came to campus because it is a guaranteed open space with a high density of people. But with that push comes petitioners asking the same people over and over.

Heidi LaBash, a graduate student in psychology, said she didnt want to complain about the activists but it can be overwhelming sometimes.

Ive gone into the library nd gone out and had the same guy ask me the same question twice, she said. So it can be inconvenient but I think ultimately it is a good thing to have people active and aware.