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West Virginia U. Engage '08 Aspires To Influence Voter Participation

This story was written by Lisa McClung, The Daily Athenaeum

Engage 08, designed to register more young voters and inspire active involvement with the November election, will launch Wednesday, Oct. 1 with the Election 08 Fair.

Sponsored by West Virginia University organizations Young Democrats and College Republicans, the fair and registration drive will be held on the Mountainlair Green from noon to 4 p.m.

West Virginia University Students for Barack Obama President Erica Sladky said the fair will be a bipartisan effort to reach out to the most apathetic voting block the youth.

This is reaching out to get a lot of young kids involved, Sladky said. Its something fun to do whether they are politically active or not.

Sladky has arranged for games and prizes, including political paraphernalia like bumper stickers and T-shirts, restaurant gift-cards and DVDs.

WCLG (local Morgantown radio broadcast) will be there and campaign booths for local democrats running for office in town will be set up, Sladky said.

There will also be cardboard cut-outs of both Republican candidate Sen. John McCain and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama. Sladky said they will be offering photos of students with the cut-outs.

(The Student Government Association) is sponsoring the cost of all the voter registration forms and snacks and things like that, Sladky said.

SGA President Jason Parsons said Engage 08 started as a way to heighten the conversation about the election on campus and pull everybody together from different political affiliations.

It will serve as a place where all the existing organizations can come together and promote the supporting of candidates and work together, Parsons said. They will receive more publicity and more excitement for their individual organizations.

Andy Barnes, president of the Young Democrats, has been friends with College Republicans President Chris Walters even before they both took the positions they currently hold.

According to Walters, both he and Barnes want to see the country succeed, they just have different ways of getting there.

We disagree politically, but there are other things to talk about in this world, Walters said.

Barnes said the decisions being made by the next president are monumental and are going to affect the youth of the country for decades to come.

We have to make a statement about our future thats a nonpartisan issue, Barnes said. Theyve got until Oct. 14 to register and then early voting begins theres really no excuse not to vote.

Engage 08 is going beyond voter registration and fair prizes in the next month before the election process begins.

Parsons said at the Web site students will soon be able to find blogs written by not only SGA representatives but various political science students, professors, deans and even WVU Interim President C. Peter Magrath.

It will be a neat way to attract people to the Web site and to hear the perspectives of other people, Parsons said.

The point, according to Parsons, is to have an online portal of information where students can find all events on campus surrounding the election.

There is also a news feed where students can find the latest headlines of the candidates campaigns.

In addition to planning panel discussions, headline guest speakers and debate and election watch parties, SGA is currently ironing out the details of hosting a national news correspondent or a national political analyst to speak on campus.

This election is very exciting, Parsons said. We want to do our part and let students become par of the conversation.

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