Organizing the vote

Imagine wanting to vote, trying to vote and not succeeding. Imagine the number of people who did not vote and who did not care. Imagine the outcome of a state being decided by only 537 votes. Sound familiar? This was the state of Florida in the 2000 presidential election.

Never again should “my vote does not count” be the reason for not voting. This election year, whether you agree or disagree with the administration at hand, there is only one thing you can do: Get involved, get educated and go vote. Your vote does count.

Both major political parties are represented here on campus, and for the most part, they only agree on two things. First, this is a critical election year, and second, it is important to get out to vote. As for the rest, it should be no surprise that they differ on almost every point.

College Republicans: The Republican View

Protestors are not an uncommon sight at a political rally. However, at an Oct. 1 pro-Kerry rally at the USF Sun Dome, protesters took on a rather uncommon appearance.

Dressed in large, bright-yellow foam costumes of flip-flops, two pro-Bush protestors attacked Sen. John Kerry’s Senate record.

These two protesters combined humor with politics and fulfilled the main goals of College Republicans: voting and volunteering, but mostly exposing young people to politics.

Aside from politics, what do the College Republicans do? College Republicans has only been operating since January of this year.

Matt Strenth, chairman of College Republicans, said at least 520 students have shown some sort of interest in the Republican Party, and membership has increased more than ten-fold since spring.

Both parties agree that college students must vote in order to ensure their voice is heard. The College Republicans said they want to make sure that no college student has an excuse for not voting. Laziness no longer cuts it. Strenth said he encourages college students to mail in their vote via absentee ballot.

“We realize that many college kids forget to vote on Election Day,” Strenth said. “Absentee ballots give students a larger window of time to vote and make it possible for students to vote away from their home district.”

In order to prepare for the upcoming election, College Republicans has been engaging in voter registration activities and planning events that will educate students about politics, specifically President George W. Bush’s politics.

College Republicans will organize a waffle breakfast at the end of the month. They indicated they would offer students a waffle breakfast along with a less “palatable list of policies on which Kerry has waffled.”

Even in a non-election year, College Republicans fills its calendar with fun activities. Strenth said they concentrate on club building and special projects as well as fun social activities that bring members together and build camaraderie.

Republican policies are the best out there right now affecting college students, Strenth said. Republican politics will keep taxes low. In college-speak, that means paying less money to the government and having larger party funds.

“Voting for John Kerry will only make life more expensive,” Strenth said.

Strenth said Republican politics would also strengthen education and secure a successful economy for graduating college students. These are the important issues affecting college students, he said.

Republican politics are also important to college students because, surprisingly, more students in college tend to support Republican candidates, according to a Washington Post and ABC News poll. This opposes the usual trend.

The reason more college students support Republican candidates may be because college students tend to stay more moderate than the mainstream Republican Party, with the greatest difference being the number of College Republicans who are pro-choice.

Still, most College Republicans will agree with the mainstream party that the debates are important for attracting voters. Strenth thinks President Bush has done a great job showing Kerry’s weak senatorial record and has clearly won on substance in the debates.

“He has shown steady, even-handed leadership,” Strenth said. “He said he would cut taxes. He did. He said he would reform education. He did.”

This is a defining election, more so than usual, that will affect the course the country takes in the war on terror, the spread of democracy and other issues, Strenth said.

The most important aspect of this election is that college students get out and vote for an “honest, down-to-earth, strong leader,” and according to Strenth, that person is George W. Bush.

College Democrats: The Democratic View

They staggered themselves between all the people coming to buy tickets on the semi-circle of pavement surrounding the Sun Dome. Pamphlets and clipboards in hand, they approached each person with their prepared speeches.

Kerry supporters at October’s Michael Moore rally urged everyone to sign up, volunteer, vote and tell their neighbors to vote.

The College Democrats, who sponsored the Michael Moore event, have a goal that is short and simple: remove George W. Bush from office.

John Duddy, president of College Democrats, said,

“The catastrophic impact of Bush makes focusing our main goal on anything else unimportant”.

According to Duddy, the College Democrats also places importance on the politics, not politicians. They are looking at what is being said and how it relates to the life of college students, not who is saying it.

College Democrats has been on campus in some form or another for almost as long as USF has been in existence and currently has 250 to 275 members, Duddy said. However, the number of people involved in the organization is much more because of the numerous networks in which the party is involved.

Duddy said Democratic issues, such as the war in Iraq and the environment, are important to college students, and the College Democrats are lobbying for a change in the way those issues are handled.

However, he said the main reason to vote Democrat is to avoid the draft.

Duddy said if Bush were allowed another term, he would be forced to reinstate the draft due to the need for more troops. The draft would affect almost every person from age 18 to 26, the age range of most college students, Duddy said.

With all these issues to worry about, there really is no such thing as a non-election year for the College Democrats. They are constantly lobbying, campaigning and spreading the word.

“The electoral process is always in motion,” Duddy said.

Part of that process is getting students to the polls to vote. College Democrats are advocating that students take advantage of early voting, which takes place from Oct. 18 through Nov. 2.

Recognizing that students have limited time to go to the polls on Election Day, members of College Democrats will have cars and buses on hand to take students to the polls during early voting.

Of course it is important to get to the polls, but first it is necessary to win those votes for Kerry, Duddy said.

Duddy said Kerry has attracted plenty of votes during the presidential debates, and with his aggressive style he has successfully won all three.

“The first debate was definitely a slam-dunk for Kerry.”

To cast a vote for a personable, strong leader who is able to look at all sides of an issue, vote for Kerry, Duddy said.