Student Campaigners Encourage Youth Vote

This story was written by Drew Joseph, The Dartmouth
Enthused by the power of the youth vote that was proven in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, political interest groups at the College are encouraging fellow students to get involved and vote in Tuesday's primary.

"People have written young people off as political force for a long time, but now that's changing," said Owen Roberts '09, a supporter of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

The volunteer student candidate support groups have formed with the aim of spreading the message of their chosen presidential hopeful through phone calls, mass e-mails, and door-to-door canvassing. The groups also perform other tasks at the request of their candidate's official campaign.

"It's a grassroots movement, it's Dartmouth students talking to Dartmouth students," Shaun Stewart '10, director of Dartmouth for Barack Obama, said. "It's a growing movement. It's incredibly heartening to see how many people at Dartmouth have put in so much time."

More than 150 students are expected to volunteer at the College for the Obama campaign Tuesday, according to a recent statement by the Obama campaign. Student volunteers from other universities are expected to arrive in Hanover en masse as Dartmouth is one of the only colleges in New Hampshire currently in session.

"It will still mostly be a Dartmouth student movement," Stewart said, "but more help is always welcome."

In an additional effort to reach student voters, the College Democrats, in conjunction with the Rockefeller Center, hosted an informal debate Monday night among the leaders of the Democratic candidate support groups. The debate, which lasted approximately an hour and a half, consisted of three parts: general questions for all candidates asked by a moderator, specific questions for individual candidates asked by the moderator, and questions from the audience.

After the debate, the College Democrats administered a straw poll of the audience members. Barack Obama won the poll, with 65 percent of the vote, while Governor Bill Richardson, D-N.M., came in second with 17 percent. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., came in fourth behind former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., garnering only 4 percent of the vote.

David Imamura '10, president of the College Democrats said that he organized the debate to familiarize students with the differences between the Democratic candidates before the Jan. 8 primary. Several of the debates participants said they added that they wanted to educate students about their respective candidates.

"I think it's important for Dartmouth students to understand what Edwards stands for," Brice Acree '09, administrative director for Dartmouth Students for Edwards, said. "I think more people would vote for him if they knew."

In addition to educating students about the specific candidates, Dartmouth student groups are also working to increase student voter turnout. Vote Clamantis, a nonpartisan association, has organized buses to take students to the polls at Hanover High School.

All Dartmouth students can vote in New Hampshire if they declare domicile, According to Jen Bandy '09, one of the vice-presidents of the Dartmouth College Republicans, many students falsely believe they must change their driver's licenses to reflect New Hampshire residency in order to vote Tuesday.

Student supporters of Obama and Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., are particularly excited for Tuesday's election, following the candidates' victories in the Iowa caucuses, according to Stewart and Bandy.

"Iowa was huge," Stewart said. "It has everyone even more fired up."

Supporters of Clinton, who finished third in Iowa behind Obama and Edwards, are not discouraged, however, Michael Brasher '10, president of Dartmouth for Hillary, said.

"We always kew it was a tight race," Brasher said. "She has a lot of support in New Hampshire, so I think we'll do really well."

-- Allyson Bennett and Josh Roselman contributed to the reporting of this article.
© 2008 The Dartmouth via U-WIRE