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International Notre Dame Students Reflect On Right To Vote

This story was written by Madeline Buckley, The Observer

International students at Notre Dame are paying close attention to the 2008 presidential election, even though they cannot join the millions of Americans who will vote today.

Sophomore Christina Zhu said she came to the United States from China to attend Notre Dame, and has paid a lot of attention to the election because it is a good way to learn about American politics.

"Living here during an election year, I got to know more about the political system," Zhu said.

In the United States, people have every opportunity to educate themselves about the candidates' positions on issues and their proposed policies, but in China, one of the biggest obstacles to voting is a lack of education, Zhu said. Many people in China are impoverished and only about 50 percent of the Chinese population has access to education, she said.

"Voting for the right person and the right policy depends on how much education you receive," Zhu said. "If you are being educated, you can make a better choice."

Zhu said she has watched all three of the presidential debates between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama and the debate between Vice Presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin because the platforms of the next president will affect Chinese foreign policies and International organizations like the United Nations.

"A new president is going to have a new foreign policy," she said. "China has a really close connection to the U.S., so China will have to change their foreign policy when the U.S. has a new president."

Zhu said she believes voting is a duty as a citizen and a responsibility.

"I think this is one of the best ways to express your opinions and one of the best ways to really change your life," she said.

Olga Beltsar said although she grew up in California, she was born in the Ukraine and cannot vote in the upcoming election. The sophomore has become involved in politics through her work as Cavanaugh Hall's dorm commissioner for NDvotes '08. She said she helped students in her hall register to vote.

"It felt kind of nice because the more people registered to vote, the more they got excited about it and the more I felt involved in the process," Beltsar said.

Beltsar said voting in the Ukraine is much more difficult than in the United States because the country is unstable and many leaders are corrupt and partake in election fraud to get certain leaders elected.

"Election fraud has disenfranchised people who would vote for candidates with a pro-Western agenda," she said.

Beltsar said she once tried to vote in the Ukraine elections through the Ukrainian embassy but the paperwork did not go through in time.

Vanya Cucumanova, a graduate student in the Peace Studies program and a citizen of Bulgaria, said she is following the election because the financial crisis in the United States has hurt the economy in Bulgaria.

"The Bulgarian market is very much dependent on the U.S. dollar and the Euro, and now the prices here are affected greatly," she said. "There was a big fallout in the Bulgarian stock market, much bigger in proportion than what it was here."

Cucumanova also said many Bulgarians are paying attention to the election because of issues with American military bases in Bulgaria. The Bush administration asked for military bases in Bulgaria, and the people clashed with the government on the matter, she said.

"People didn't want the bases to be in Bulgaria, but the government had no way to refuse as part of being in being in NATO, which is important to us, being in a small country," Cucumanova said. "In that particular sense, who is he next president affects us because he will affect how these bases are used."

Cucumanova said Bulgaria has a president along with a prime minister and a Parliament. For the presidential elections, there are usually four or five candidates, she said. Cucumanova said the presidential elections in Bulgaria are different because Bulgarians usually vote based on personality and she said she believes people in the U.S. usually vote by party.

"I think that the U.S system is very much narrowed down to party lines," she said. "In Bulgaria, that's not the case."

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