Campus organizations work to increase student voting

by Iris Liu | 11/5/12 11:00pm

Campaigning efforts for the 2012 election have surged as student political groups organize last-minute efforts to boost student involvement in presidential, state and local elections. The College Democrats and College Republicans have been working to maximize voter turnout by reaching out to students and community members and will provide free transportation to the polls at Hanover High School throughout the day.

The majority of Dartmouth students will vote Democratic, according to College Republicans Co-Vice President Robert Smith '14, College Libertarians President William Baird '15 and College Democrats President Mason Cole '13. A poll conducted last week by The Dartmouth indicated that roughly two-thirds of Dartmouth students plan to vote for President Barack Obama over Republican candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney, though Cole estimates that the true ratio is even higher.

College Republicans reached out to voters in the Hanover community, campaigning door-to-door and calling potential Republican voters. At this point, efforts are more focused on increasing turnout among groups of voters sympathetic to Romney, Smith said. Today, College Republicans will work to provide means of transportation to the polls for Dartmouth students and Republicans in the community.

"I think elections are great because they not only help to rally your base, they make your group stronger and more unified as a whole," Smith said.

Different segments of the electorate are expected to have different levels of voter turnout, he said.

"Personally, I think the Democrats will have a hard time replicating the very high numbers they had in 2008," he said. "On the contrary, I think the Republicans this year might in some ways have greater turnout than in previous elections."

Both the College Republicans and College Democrats stressed the value of letting students meet candidates in person.

The highest-profile Democratic politician that has visited campus is Vice President Joe Biden. However, the College Democrats have also brought gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan and congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster '78.

The College Democrats have been organizing campaigning efforts such as phone banking and canvassing in residence halls with Students for Obama since September, according to Students for Obama canvassing captain Carene Mekertichyan '16. As election day approached, the group saw an influx of volunteers, with an increase from around a dozen volunteers in early September to over 100 today.

Based on strong student participation in debate watch parties and volunteering events, Cole expects high voter turnout.

"It's pretty hard to determine how the turnout will compare to previous years, but we're hoping that our efforts have clarified the process for students," he said.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that 15 percent of eligible New Hampshire voters under the age of 30 participated in the 2012 presidential primary. Youth voters represented 12 percent of voters in the primary, a drop from 16 percent in 2008 and 14 percent in 2004.

In a last-minute effort to reach out to students, members of the College Democrats organized events to increase visibility on Monday. Volunteers were stationed at various locations around campus to hand out campaign information and encourage last-minute student involvement in the election, Cole said.

Student Assembly, the College Republicans and the College Democrats will be working together to organize a shuttle between the Collis Center and the nearest polling place at Hanover High School.

Baird noted that students' votes will have a large impact due to New Hampshire's role as a swing state.

"Targeting youth vote is a good strategy," Baird said. "New Hampshire is a small enough population that each vote is very powerful."

Collis Governing Board, the Rockefeller Center, the College Republicans and the College Democrats are organizing a bipartisan results watch party at Sarner Underground at 9 p.m. tonight.