This story was written by Katie Gonzalez, The Dartmouth
The 2008 election fervor reaches its climax Tuesday, as a variety of student groups make last-ditch efforts to increase student participation and affect the outcomes of the presidential, state and local elections. Dartmouths chapters of the College Democrats and College Republicans, as well as the non-partisan group Vote Clamantis, which aims to maximize student voter turnout, have all switched into high gear to ensure that the Dartmouth community gets to the polls at Hanover High School Tuesday.
It is estimated that the youth voter turnout in New Hampshire could be as high as 55 percent. Forty-three percent of eligible N.H. voters under 30 participated in this years primary election.
Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama holds a solid lead in statewide polls, with Republican nominee Senator John McCain trailing by an average of 10 points. Dartmouth students are expected to overwhelmingly vote Democratic, according to Dartmouth College Republicans President Jennifer Bandy '09 and Dartmouth College Democrats President David Imamura '10. Imamura estimated that for every one McCain supporter, there are six students who support Obama.
New Hampshire has grown increasingly Democratic since 2002, and in the 2004 presidential election was the only state to reverse its support for President George W. Bush in 2000.
Rallying support for the GOP, members of the Dartmouth College Republicans have been volunteering at the McCain campaigns headquarters in Manchester, and organized a Visibility Day on Monday, which encouraged supporters to wear Republican campaign gear, Bandy said.
When people see their friends fired up about a candidate they havent really considered yet, they realize that this election isnt over, Bandy said. And maybe Obama needs to start preparing his concession speech.
In similar efforts, the Dartmouth College Democrats have been campaigning for weeks, posting flyers around campus and canvassing in College residence halls. The chapter has been praised by Obamas staff for its highly organized campaign efforts.
Its very important that people on campus understand the importance of the election, Imamura said. Not just in the presidential race, but in the senatorial race as well. Dartmouth can really make a difference.
Imamura believes that the groups efforts could boost the number of Dartmouth student voters by 20 or 30 percent.
Were not asking much of students, Imamura said. All were asking is that they participate in probably the most historical election well ever see.
The heightened campaign efforts have created some tension between the two campus political groups, though, Bandy said.
According to Bandy, signs posted by the College Republicans endorsing McCain and Senator John Sununu, R-N.H., have been vandalized, and Obama supporters have been aggressive towards members of the College Republicans. A police report was filed last week against a male who attempted to steal a McCain campaign sign.
Conservatives are the only minority group on campus it is acceptable to treat despicably, she said. It wouldnt be acceptable if the College Democrats were treated that way.
On the other hand, the non-partisan Vote Clamantis aims to ease this tension by allowing students to participate in the election without feeling compelled to align themselves with a specific party, Jessica Guthrie 10, the organizations president, said.
Students can ask us questions, and we can answer without the influence of party lines, she said. Its nice to have a neutral group to go to.
Vote Clamantis has hosted two voter registration drives this term, registering approximately 700Dartmouth students, according to Guthrie. Vote Clamantis has also sought to provide students with voting information and remind students not on campus to fill out absentee ballots. The group partnered with the Dartmouth Coalition for Progress to screen the film 18 in 08, a nonpartisan documentary emphasizing the importance of voting last month.
The greatest ways to effect social change is to let your voice be heard, Guthrie said. And what better way for your voice to be heard on the national level than to vote? We wanted to make sure this process was as easy and convenient as possible.