Volunteers for Obama encourage students to 'Get Out the Vote'

By Maggie Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff | 11/6/12 10:00am

If you walked down Mass Row at 8:30 p.m. on Monday evening, you would have seen Students for Obama turned chalk artists covering the pavement with reasons to vote for President Barack Obama. In front of the Class of 1953 Commons, a dozen volunteers recreated a large "O" Obama logo in chalk.

This election season, canvassing has been happening since the second week of school, both on campus and in the town of Hanover according to Carene Mekertichyan '16, head of canvassing for Students for Obama.

As the election has gotten closer, the Obama campaign has picked up more volunteers. Over 100 volunteers were scheduled for Monday, according to Mekertichyan.

“People really want to help out,"Mekertichyan said."People want to have the ability to say that they worked on this president's campaign."

Jose Rodarte '16 was recruited to the phone banking efforts when he attended a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal event last month and met Ben Levander, the leader of the Students for Obama campaign.

Rodarte says that he works two-hour shifts up to three times per week and has worked seven shifts.

"Usually I call fifty people," Rodarte said. "One time out of those fifty, I only got sixteen [people to answer]."

The reactions he has gotten on the other end of the line have been mixed, he said.

"Some people are very hostile, and will say ‘I don’t support Obama at all,’” he said. “Some are very nice. Most don’t want to volunteer.”

Rodarte said it is difficult to convince people to volunteer for the campaign, and many people tell him that they are busy.

Zach Wood ’15 also spent some time canvassing, knocking on 120 doors in dorms on campus one weekend in mid-October. Wood said he tried to avoid conflict and speak to voters about the issues that were important to him.

"[The main goal] is not to convince people to vote for Obama," Wood said. "We figured people had already made their choice. We wanted to make people realize how easy it was to register."

Obama's “Get Out the Vote” campaign emphasizes just this.

"[We want] to make sure that [students] can vote, they know how to register, and how to get the polls,” Mekertichyan said.

For Wood, the most valuable part of the experience was the conversations he had, he said. Unlike Rodarte, Wood did not personally face any hostility. He interacted with "generally really nice" individuals, he said.

"Most of them wanted to talk, and thought it was awesome that someone was going around talking about what they actually believed in," Wood said."The conversations were ... really cool, and I think they are a great campaign strategy. One guy even offered me a beer."

Wood, who said he thought his efforts were successful, was surprised by how many people didn’t know how easy it was to vote.

"The laws for voter registration have changed a lot in New Hampshire ... it's a really confusing time,” he said.

Mekertichyan, Rodarte, and Wood all talked about how a civic duty compelled them to campaign.

"I knew that New Hampshire was a swing state and that I wanted to be involved with the Obama campaign as much as possible," Mekertichyan said about her early and heavy involvement in the campaign.

Rodarte said he wanted to be more involved in the political process and encourage others to also get involved. Wood got involved to voice his opinions, he said.

"One day it really hit me," Wood said. "Paul Ryan wanted to cut the EPA and the National Science Foundation, and I realized that this was something that would really affect me, my career and the things that I love. I got really frustrated, and I decided that I would do something.”

Most students interviewed by The Dartmouth said that the work by canvassers is respected, even if some perceive it as excessive.

"It goes to show that people are very politically involved and interested in getting people to come out to the polls,” Kim Strauch ’15 said."But at the same time, there is an overstepping of bounds."

Strauch said she received inconvenient visit by a canvasser for the Obama campaign in the East Wheelock residence hall.

"I do appreciate the efforts, though," Strauch added. "I think it's really important that college students go out and vote, especially because we are a swing state."

Molly Crowe '15 said she would be annoyed if she had received multiple solicitations from the party that she opposed. But regardless of political affiliation, Crowe said she believes that it is important for college students to be involved in the election.

"[It shows that] we aren't going to let older generations decide our political future for us," Crowe said.

Maggie Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff