Campus groups gear up for upcoming presidential primary

by Amber Bhutta | 1/28/20 2:10am

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Student Assembly hosted voter registration drives on Nov. 13 and Jan. 22.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

With two weeks to go until the New Hampshire presidential primary, student organizations — such as the College Democrats, College Republicans and Student Assembly — have mobilized in various ways to prepare for the event.

According to College Democrats president Riley Gordon ’22, the club’s preparation for the primary has focused on informing people on the candidates and encouraging them to register to vote.

“We are preparing to get as many students to the polls as possible,” Gordon said. 

According to Gordon, a number of political campaigns have sent representatives to speak at club meetings, while some campaigns have also provided volunteer and leadership opportunities for club members. 

To encourage people to learn more about candidates, Gordon said that the College Democrats have organized watch parties for the Democratic presidential debates and hosted Democratic presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard.

“We host a lot of candidates so students have a chance to see all the different options they have in the primary coming up,” Gordon said. “It’s an important way of facilitating one-on-one democracy.” 

Gordon also recommended that students get involved in issue advocacy groups on campus to become informed.

“There are all sorts of specific advocacy groups on campus that specialize in certain issues, and for people who have a single issue that really matters to them, I would encourage them to go join those clubs and be involved in that kind of advocacy,” Gordon said.

Part of the College Democrats’ efforts to inform people come as a response to New Hampshire House Bill 1264, a law passed in 2018 that altered the definition of a legal resident of New Hampshire by adding new requirements to vote in state.

“State officials have been very clear that this law does not prevent anyone from voting,” Gordon said. “There is a lot of information about this law out there. A lot of it is false. We’re doing our best to get everything out in the open — to talk about how it affects residency and driver’s licenses.”

According to College Republicans chairman Daniel Bring ’21, however, HB 1264 has not affected his clubs’ activities — as most of their members do not vote in New Hampshire.

“We’ve always been strong supporters of that law and are just as happy to vote in elections via absentee ballots in our home states,” Bring said. 

He went on to explain that the College Republicans are “not doing very much” in preparation for the primaries, as the club has already endorsed President Donald Trump for reelection. 

“In terms of the New Hampshire primary, we don’t expect there to be any difficulty for the current president to win the Republican nomination for 2020,” Bring said. “[The Republican primary] is not really a strategic focus for the organization.” 

Bring said that the best way for students to become involved in the political process was to familiarize themselves with party platforms and attending meetings for College Republicans and College Democrats.

In addition to the efforts of partisan groups on campus, Student Assembly also organized two nonpartisan voter registration drives during the current academic year — which occurred on Nov. 13 and on Jan. 22 — during which nearly 400 students registered to vote. Though Student Assembly will not host another drive before the upcoming primary, students can still register to vote when they arrive at the polls on Feb. 11 because New Hampshire allows same-day voter registration. 

“We always encourage students to exercise their right to vote and remind students that they can vote in New Hampshire if they so choose,” said Student Assembly vice president Ariela Kovary ’20.