Rhode Island Ballot Could Send Boston U. Freshman To Dem. Convention

This story was written by Katrina Ballard, The Daily Free Press
Sen. Barack Obama has spent millions of dollars and more than a year crisscrossing the nation to appear on presidential primary ballots. Boston University freshman Brendan Ryan said he got his name on the Rhode Island delegates ballot by pounding the pavement to pick up signatures in his Providence neighborhood five hours a day for straight two weeks.

If Ryan wins election as a state delegate Tuesday, the College of General Studies freshman who collected more than 250 signatures from registered voters last December, will go to the Democratic National Convention in August to vote for Obama as a delegate representing his state.

"It's a landmark election," Ryan said. "To have played a role in that, I think it'd be worth it."

In Rhode Island's primary process all residents 18 and older can qualify to appear on a delegates ballot, which voters use to select delegates on primary day.

In the basic delegate selection process, primaries determine who will represent votes for certain presidential candidates and attend the national convention, College of Arts and Sciences history professor Bruce Schulman said in an email.

Ryan said this year's convention, to be held in Denver, will be unique because the election is a close race. With Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton neck and neck in the polls, Ryan said he is intrigued to see how the process works.

"I've always been interested in politics, and it was a really cool opportunity," he said. "I remember my dad trying to [be a delegate] -- it was just something that I thought I'd give it a shot and see if I could actually do it."

Ryan said his support for Obama stems from his high school sociology teacher, who encouraged the class to attend an Obama speech at Brown University for extra credit.

"I think he's one of the best legislators we've ever had," Ryan said. "He's a natural born leader. I think he's a team player. He's intelligent, which is something we haven't seen in awhile."

Ryan's father, BU alumnus Tom Ryan, said his son has a chance of going to the convention because the candidates for Obama delegates in their home district are not "big name local politicians." Those on the ballot are "just activists and people like Brendan," Tom Ryan said.

"We think that it's got real possibilities," he said. "Rhode Island is a little unique -- an 18 year-old does have a shot."

Ryan said his position on the ballot of potential delegates is 13 out of 16, and many people will probably vote for the people at the top of the list. However, Ryan said there is a local politician in the 14th spot below him, which may help his chances.

"It's possible people will see [the politician] and vote for me just because I'm near him," he said. "It's extremely complicated."

Because the primary falls during midterms for Ryan, his friends and parents are promoting him using flyers and word of mouth.

"A lot of the people that signed for me will probably vote for me if they remember my name, [and] people that I didn't get to sign and still know me will probably vote," Ryan said.

Ryan said he isn't sure what field he would like to enter after college, and his major is currently undeclared. However, he said the possibility of becoming a delegate could help him decide.

"He's got a genuine interest in political science and history," Tom Ryan said. "We're very proud of him. He did it on his own."
© 2008 The Daily Free Press via U-WIRE